A reflection by Marcus Campbell, UnitingWorld. This article was first published in the December 2023 edition of Revive magazine.
Sharing the Greatest Gift of the Christmas Story
It’s a tale so mysterious and compelling most of us can recite it from childhood.
A betrothed Mary and Joseph make an unwanted trip home for a census. Mary is heavily pregnant and when there’s no room at the inn they make do where the animals are kept.
A child is born and rests in a manger. Away in the fields, a host of angels sing a chorus to a group of shepherds and invite them to come and see. In the far east, a star intrigues three Magi enough for them to pack extravagant gifts and make the long journey to worship a newborn king.
Into the messiness of everyday life, God comes to us as a child, stripped of might and born into the same dangerous, makeshift and humble circumstances experienced by people the world over.
It means God is with us. Walks with us. Suffers with us.
It’s an incomparable gift.
It’s no wonder the story never seems to get old. We instinctively mimic the story, practising extravagant generosity and offering love and hospitality to one another at Christmas.
I think of our church partners and their communities around the world.
Across the Pacific, people will return to their home villages to spend time with family and loved ones. There will be feasting and sharing of abundance with the community; rich traditions that existed long before missionaries introduced Christmas (but is now a match made in heaven). On Christmas morning, our partner churches will be filled with hymns of praise sung with the highs and lows of soaring multi-part harmonies.
In Bali, where the Christian community is a small minority, believers will prepare extra food to share with their Hindu and Muslim neighbours at Christmas, reaching out as part of a custom of generosity and interfaith harmony.
In India, our church partner has a tradition of hosting candlelit peace marches and speaking up for the downtrodden during the
Christmas season. They’re never shy in pointing out the context of Roman occupation, inequality, and exploitation that the Christmas story played out in – and how much of God’s creation still cries out for liberation today.
In rural Timor-Leste, the simple setting of Christ’s birth is a reassuring sign to our church partners that Jesus shows solidarity with those who suffer, and that they should do likewise.
The Christmas story will never stop stirring hearts across the world to respond with love and generosity.
UnitingWorld’s Everything in Common Gift Catalogue is one way that we Christians in Australia can be part of the story.
When we share gifts that help people who need it, we also share the greatest gift we were given: God with us, and the hope, peace, joy and love that came bundled up in that manger.
Shop online for life-changing gifts for Christmas: www. everythingincommon.com.au