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There are some Christian movements that shun the giving of Christmas presents. One such is Christian Science, whose founder Mary Baker Eddy told in a paper ‘The Theology of Christmas Presents’ how, instead of giving them gifts, she sat still and thought about ‘Truth and Purity’ for her friends till they were much better for it. This was derided by G.K. Chesterton who declared Eddy’s stance to be ‘un-Christian’ and who points out that ‘Christ Himself was a Christmas present’. He writes as well that, ‘A gift of God that can be seen and touched is the whole point of the epigram of the creed.’

Admittedly, the consumer spending spree that begins ever earlier in the year can get a bit out of hand, and even lead to some people ending up in debt. But how lovely it can be to both receive and to give presents, especially ones into which a lot of thought and love has gone. And the gifts don’t have to be expensive. We do ‘Secret Santas’ at the Irish Chaplaincy (a fine tradition; and one enjoyed as well, by all accounts, in 10, Downing Street!). There is a £5 guideline and people interpret that in a variety of ways. I hit the jackpot this year. I received a large white furry Christmas stocking emblazoned with the letter ‘E’ and containing a string of flashing lights (which I love) and a glass container with a Christmas scene inside that snows when you shake it (which I also love) and lights up when you press a button on the bottom! And can be hung on the tree! The Secret Santa in question had, in addition, bought a large box of chocolates for all the team and a signed photo of Jamie Carragher for Declan’s son who is a Liverpool fan. I was so touched by that.

My furry stocking has duly been hung up next to the fireplace and I wait in anticipation of it being filled with little treats when I come downstairs on the morning of December 25th. I’m aware that I might find it empty but that’s the thing about present giving, and, I suppose, life in general: sometimes you’re in luck, sometimes you’re not! But in luck or out of luck, we may never know, through our own giving, how we may have touched another person.

Chesterton argues in his riposte to Mary Baker Eddy that if the three kings had simply brought ‘Truth and Purity and Love’ to that stable in Bethlehem then there ‘would have been no Christian art and no Christian civilization.’ Rather they brought actual, physical gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. OK, they may not have been the most practical things to give to the mother of a new-born, but how many of us want practical gifts at Christmas? Don’t we want instead something to make us smile, to feel special; to feel known and valued and loved: in short, thoughtful gifts, which is precisely what the gifts of the kings were.

In the words of Handel’s Messiah, ‘For unto us a child is born’, and that, surely, remains the greatest Christmas gift of all.

 

 

 

Eddie Gilmore

Author Eddie Gilmore

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  • Patrick Gormley says:

    Thank you Eddy for Sharing….we too will have Christmas Stockings ( this year hosts and guests age range 70++).
    The Stockings create great mirth and laughter and lovely to see the smiles. At one time we had a more child centred gifts theme but those children now have children of their own….and all managing in lockdown…so hopefully everyone will be both safe and happy.

  • Kylie Sisson says:

    Thank you for the wonderful work of the Irish Chaplaincy UK. As a Christian Scientist, I agree with you that the words from the Messiah “For unto us a child is born” is the greatest Christmas gift of all. It’s perhaps worth clarifying that gift giving has always been a loved part of Christmas celebrations for Christian Scientists. Mary Baker Eddy delighted in the joy of Christmas and wrote in 1900: “Parents call home their loved ones, the Yule-fires burn, the festive boards are spread, the gifts glow in the dark green branches of the Christmas-tree.…” But at the same time, like you and most other Christians, she cherished the deeper meaning of Christmas. “Again loved Christmas is here,” she wrote, “full of divine benedictions and crowned with the dearest memories in human history — the earthly advent and nativity of our Lord…” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 256). I wish you and all at the Irish Chaplaincy a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

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