St. Stephen's Church Hightown

....part of the local community.

JanAshtonDear All,

By the time you read this there will be less than four weeks to Christmas. It’s a lovely time but very busy. There’s two events being celebrated: the coming of God’s son Jesus and the coming of Santa Claus As a child, I tended to blur God and Santa Claus; almost as if they were the same being. Sometimes listening to adults I hear the same blurring as if God and Santa Claus are interchangeable. So what are the differences?

Santa Claus gives gifts. Santa Claus is generous and kind and often gives us the gifts we’ve asked for. Good that, isn’t it? Santa Claus enjoys the giving of gifts which cost money. It’s what Christmas is about. This and family. This gift giving is his sole purpose. We can write to Santa Claus and ask for the gifts we want knowing we will be heard and money spent to buy them. As a child I did post a letter up the chimney, knowing this is the way Santa Claus will come to me with those gifts. Santa Claus says, or it is said about Santa Claus, that he only gives to good boys and girls. Yet this doesn’t seem to be true as Santa Claus gives gifts to everybody. Santa Claus does seem to give more gifts to richer children than to poorer children. And sometimes Santa Claus gets people in debt. But overall Santa Claus is good.

God gives gifts. We often say in church God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. God gives us gifts of life and creation and the community of Hightown and many gifts which money can’t buy. And we can ask God for gifts and sometimes God answers our prayers because God is kind and generous and enjoys giving gifts. It’s what Christmas is about - God giving us the gift of Jesus who in turn gives his life for the salvation of the world. God likes to give gifts and has many helpers who are prompted to help disperse these gifts. You may know two helpers who have recently raised money for Autism Initiatives and for MacMillan Nurses. Sometimes though we ask and ask and ask for gifts and these don’t arrive. A colleague asked for a baby and one didn’t come. God doesn’t promise any of the gifts we ask for will come. God only promises God will help us cope with whatever does happen. God gives life and life in all its fulness but this life is to be shared. God gives gifts to share with others especially those who haven’t got those gifts.

The main difference between Santa Claus and God is God gives gifts to share not just for the fun of giving gifts. The gift giving is not an end in itself. We are given love to share love with others, money to share money with others, friends so we can be a good friend, peace so we can work for peace for others. Santa Claus gives gifts as an end in itself. God gives gifts so they can be shared.

Both can be enjoyed. What is Santa Claus bringing you this year? What has God given you this year? How can you share what you’ve been given?

Happy Christmas and have a Thankful Giving New Year.

- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool