As part of a clever advertising campaign entitled “The Christmas Gift Experiment,” someone set a shiny red package the size of a shed in the middle of England’s Grand Central Station in Birmingham. “Free gifts,” the sign above says. Equipped with an old-fashioned telephone – presumably connected to an unseen monitor – the handset rings as seasonal commuters stream by.
“Merry Christmas!” Santa says with a distinctly British accent as an intrepid soul answers the phone. “Would you like a little present for your Christmas?”
When the individual says “yes,” a wrapped present drops out of a slot.
“One thing,” the voice on the line continues, “The present isn’t for you because presents are for giving, not receiving. Wouldn’t you agree?”
The voice then describes an individual walking past. “You see that gentlemen with the big black bag? Run after him. Go, go, go!”
And so, in this sweetly choreographed video posted by the British tabloid Birmingham Mail, stranger after stranger races through the bustling crowd to deliver an unexpected gift. Skepticism and mistrust turns to mutual joy and pleasure for the giver and the gifted as presents exchange hands – a stuffed animal, a smoothie maker, a scarf. At the end, the words “Christmas as it should be” flash across the screen.
One of my sweetest Christmas memories is of going to the mall – a rare occurrence in my childhood – with my mother and older brother when I was about 6 to buy matching red tricycles for twin 4-year-olds. My mother had pulled the children’s names from a holiday giving tree.
Never mind that my mother had salvaged my own first bicycle from a neighbor’s field and sanded off the rust before repainting it for my birthday. I was filled with excitement and wonder, imagining how thrilled these two unknown children would be to receive their own first bikes.
Like this cute video illustrates, presents are for giving. Some of the best gifts are free – at least to us. And the very best gift came in a shed-sized box – an animal shed. Only, unlike in the video, the birth of Christ, which Christians celebrate at Christmas, is for receiving and for sharing.
“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son,” Christ’s close companion, the apostle John, says in I John 5:11-12. “He who has the son has life.”
This is truly Christmas as it should be, receiving and sharing God’s great gift to us – the gift of heavenly love and peace and forgiveness made possible through his son. Or as a friend observed this week, “Hope in a manager.”
Marked by a star, heralded by angels, foretold in Scripture, Christ was the original Christmas gift. To receive him, all you have to do is pick up the line, say yes, then, “Go, go, go!” and share the good news.