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The Perfect Present

It is always quite a puzzle to give the right present.  The other day, I was in the barbers, no seriously I know I do not need to go there often these days, but there I was waiting my turn when the conversation between the barber and the young man in the chair caught my ears.

Are you ready for Christmas? enquired the barber, Oh yes, said the young man, Im well on top of it this year I have even found something for the wife.
Whats that then?
Oh shell love it, its a steam iron.

Well at that, the copies of the Express, Sun and Mirror (and even my Church Times) were lowered and we older boys exchanged a look in the long silence that had fallen.  Then as quickly, they were raised as we tucked ourselves safely behind them once more.  So, somewhere out there in Luton under a tree, wrapped and gift tagged, I cant help thinking is a small present set to go off like a grenade over breakfast.  Of course I might be wrong and it could be the very thing the lady wants, but somehow, you know, I doubt it!

Even if we avoid getting it so spectacularly wrong, it is tricky nonetheless to get it just right so I want to tell you about a present that I was given this year that touched me greatly.  As many of you know I spent the summer and indeed part of the autumn knitting sheep.  Here are some of them.  Towards the end of September, a lady called Sally came to see me to discuss funeral arrangements for her mum and, during the discussion over some tea and biscuits in my front room, I discovered that her mum had been a champion needlewoman and we fell to talking about knitting.  At the time I had about nine sheep; well more exactly the parts of nine sheep, eighteen ears, thirty-six legs nine  heads and so on waiting to be assembled and I showed Sally this woolly abattoir in the way of establishing my credentials to talk about crafty things.  Well, after the funeral Sally came up to me and pressed something into my hand and said I thought I had seen one of these in my mums needlework box, I would like you to have it.  And here he is!  As you can see, he is neater than the others and a little smaller.  I rather like to think that he is a lamb and he is very special!

He is special because he was given to me with feeling and the present is tailored to reflect something of both the giver and the receiver.  I had no idea that I would be given a lamb that day and tonight we remember that no-one then was expecting the promised Messiah, the saviour of the world, to come as a tiny baby, for him to be born most simply in a lowly stable in Bethlehem, to be born to a poor humble girl from Nazareth nor for his birth to be announced to itinerant poor shepherds.  Yet this gift is quite perfect.  However we imagine the scene that night two thousand and eleven years ago there was a moment, as there is at every birth, a moment that is perfect, that split atomic second when the baby is born, an instant when hovering between the life of Mary and the life of Mary and Jesus everything changed, a breath of total newness and it is in this way that God chose to come into the world.  It is a gift that reflects the sacrifice, purity and love of God as well as our humanity.  A gift given with such love that we can hardly imagine.  It is greater than any gift, of gold or frankincense or myrrh or a woolly sheep or the very best thing you have ever been given on earth, for it is forever, it is for every one of us, it assures us of salvation, it promises us eternal life and it shows us in the presence of a newborn child the immeasurable love of God.

Amen        

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