Ruth Pyke’s December Diary article November 26, 2016Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
Wrapping paper, gift tags and shiny ribbons, wrapping the gifts we have chosen so carefully. Even the most ordinary box of biscuits or chocolates looks so much more enticing and exciting when gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. As the days of December rush by, Christmas shopping becomes increasingly frantic – whether anxiously waiting for parcel deliveries or finding time to browse in the shopping malls and arcades.
Time was when gift giving happened at New Year and was usually small-scale, homemade and handcrafted. As industry and mass production increased, so did the possibility of giving larger, shop-bought gifts. Suddenly, for those who could afford them, there were toys and games, books and other delights to be bought. This was, of course, the preserve of those with money. And it still is. For some, the desire to provide any sort of festive food for their families at Christmas, let alone provide gifts, is an enormous struggle. Foodbanks have become a wonderful channel not just for emergency food during the year but for others to give presents, turkeys and extra treats which help many more people to have a joyful Christmas.
Giving is such a central part of Christmas: giving presents, giving to charity, giving of our time, energy and hospitality. It can remind us of the gifts which the Wise Men brought to Jesus: gold, the symbol of Kingship, frankincense, the symbol of godliness and prayer, and myrrh, the symbol of healing and anointing. I wonder if Mary kept those strange gifts to one side, gifts too precious, too adult for the infant Jesus.
In her play The Man born to be King Dorothy L Sayers implies that the myrrh, at least, was kept carefully and used not at the beginning but at the end of Jesus’ life; not at Christmas but at Easter. The dialogue between Mary Cleopas and Mary Magdalen runs thus:
MARY CLEOPAS: Mary the mother of Jesus gave us this to take with us.
MARY MAGDALEN: Oh, but what is it? I never saw such a beautiful casket. The gold and the jewels are fit for a king’s treasure.
MARY CLEOPAS: It came from a king’s treasure. It is King Balthazar’s gift of myrrh, that he brought to Jesus at Bethlehem. It has waited for him three and thirty years.
The gift that God sends to us year by year is the same. The gift of Jesus, God in human form who shares in our joys and sorrows, our hopes and our dreams. Maybe year after year we leave the gift to one side, but just like the gift of King Balthazar it waits for us with patience and with love. Maybe this is the year you will take it, unwrap it and see it as the most important gift ever given.