The Joy of Giving

Christmas Sale signs can be seen in the high street this year. Perhaps it is a sign of how desperate shops are for business. The recession seems to be affecting more households than ever and combined with the cuts in public spending there is little appetite to go on a spending spree. There may be hard times ahead. That said, most people will still splash out on food and gifts. It is difficult to cut back on the expectation of a good Christmas. If it is tough for those with money then spare a thought for those who are struggling to cope.
For the past few decades the commercial development of Christmas has known no limits. It has made for a season of excess upon excess. Now that the financial bubble has well and truly burst it is a fresh opportunity to restore something of the simplicity of Christmas. After all Jesus was born in a stable not in the Hilton. The feast is a celebration of the ordinary made special by God. Many adults remember with affection the Christmas of their childhood. A less material age when Christmas was very different from the rest of the year. If you have little then a time when you can expect special things brings wonder and excitement into the celebration. You do not need to be rich to enter into the joy of Christmas.
On the 6th December we are reminded of St. Nicholas the patron saint of bankers and children. He teaches us about the spirit of giving rather than receiving. He started out in life with great wealth and then gave it away. The practice of hanging Christmas stockings is based on his giving away bags of gold and placing them through open windows into socks that had been hung to dry (ever wondered why you used to have a bag of golden chocolate coins in your stocking!). Here we have the virtue of showing kindness to people we don’t know without any expectation of reward. Do we send our cards and presents in the same spirit?
St. Nicholas demonstrated how we should live. His faith in Jesus inspired him to be kind to people. It is a good question to ask, what type of person do you wish to be? At a time when the economy has suffered do we measure success as the amount of money that someone has hoarded or the use to which it has been applied. There is something of St. Nicholas in that television programme ‘The Secret Millionaire’. We can be generous as well. There is much joy to be found in giving.
Mark Binney
Priest in Charge of Hampton with Sedgeberrow and Hinton-on-the-Green