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Beyond the tinsel: A time to remember the true gift

Saturday 23 December 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Beyond the tinsel: A time to remember the true gift
This week the Araura College Virtues class and Aitutaki Virtues Club had a gift-giving party thanks to the generosity of some American friends and local Steph Joseph, who provided crafts, beads, and sparklies. LINDA KAVELIN-POPOV/23122201

We live in a highly commercialised, materialistic world, even here in Paradise. What do our children think Christmas is all about when they attend Christmas in the Park, only to see Minnie Mouse, Hello Kitty and Spider Man tossing candies and handing out gifts.

It’s a fun time for children and families – a gift in itself. Yet I wonder if it might be confusing. This is not to diminish the caring of the many volunteers who generously spend their time creating a joyful event for the children and collecting donations of gifts from local shops so that every child receives something. Yet, does the true meaning of the Christmas miracle get lost in glitzy events such as this?

In the Christmas parade on Aitutaki, there was a small wagon pulled along by a parent, with shepherds walking beside it. In it was a young mother holding a baby. In the midst of so many other images, did the children know it represented Mother Mary holding the baby Jesus and the shepherds guided by the angel Gabriel to the manger by the light of a star? Unless we focus on the actual story of Christmas, it could easily become Xmas.

This week the Araura College Virtues class and Aitutaki Virtues Club had a gift-giving party thanks to the generosity of some American friends and local Steph Joseph, who provided crafts, beads, and sparklies. Before they began making gifts for friends and family members, I wanted to find out what these children, ages six to 12, thought Christmas was celebrating. No one mentioned Santa or Spider Man. An eight-year-old immediately called out “Jesus Christ!” Christmas literally refers to Christ’s mass – a sacred service honouring His birth. 

And how did the tradition of gift-giving start? I told them about the gifts of the Magi, the three Zoroastrian priests from ancient Persia, following a prophecy from their scriptures recorded over a thousand years before Jesus was born, about a new star that would appear in the heavens, that if they followed it, they would find the saviour of humanity cradled in the straw. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Then, we focused on the virtue of generosity, and each child shared a time they had practiced the virtue. “I help my mum clean the house.” “I used some of my birthday money to buy lunch for some kids that were hungry.” “I share my colours with my friends at school.” Magi actually means “generous”. It’s important for children to know Acts 20:35 “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

The children were excited to make presents for others. A ten-year-old thoughtfully made a bracelet for his older cousin who was nervous about learning to drive. In lettered beads he spelled out “Best diver”, inadvertently leaving off the ‘r’. I learned later his cousin loved it anyway. All the children showed their natural generosity by cleaning up and insisted on carrying all the leftover crafts to the car. They often surprise me by tidying up without being asked after each Virtues Club meeting. They truly love being helpful and respond with big smiles when thanked for their kindness, generosity, or helpfulness.

Christmas can be the special celebration of Jesus Christ it is meant to be, if we share the stories about His birth and practice the fruits of the spirit together.