John Sentamu on Christmas

THERE’S an old joke about a young boy who desperately wanted a new bicycle for Christmas.

Having just played a vital role in the school Nativity play, he thought rather than writing to Santa he would write a letter to the baby Jesus.


So the boy went to his room and wrote: “Dear Jesus, I have been a very good boy and would like to have a bike for Christmas.”


But he wasn’t very happy when he read it over, so he decided to try again. This time he wrote: “Dear Jesus, I’m a good boy most of the time and would like a bike for Christmas.”

He read it back and wasn’t happy with that either. He tried a third version. “Dear Jesus, I could be a good boy if I tried hard and especially if I had a new bike.”


He read that one too, but he still wasn’t satisfied. So, he decided to go out for a walk while he thought about a better approach.

After a short time he passed a house with a small statue of the Virgin Mary in the front garden. He crept in, stuffed the statue under his coat, hurried home and hid it under the bed.


Then he wrote this letter: “Dear Jesus, if you want to see your mother again, you’d better send me a new bike.”


It’s often tempting when we think about Christmas to just think about the presents — to be excited about the ones we might receive and to get a little worried about the ones we are to buy.


The financial constraints and current economic gloom mean that for many the thought of what presents to buy — and how to afford them — is a cause of worry, while wider considerations about the economic outlook, jobs and mortgages translate a season of goodwill and cheer into one of bad debt and fear.

But as every child and parent knows, one of the central messages of Christmas is contained in the words of the angels when they appeared to the shepherds, preparing them for what was to come.

That message is one we all need to hear anew this year: “Do not be afraid.”

Perhaps more striking is the way the message is presented in the majestic translation of the Authorised King James Version of the Bible — “Fear Not!”

And the paradox of this economic winter, where the chill winds of financial uncertainty blow at our backs, is that we each have the opportunity to give a gift more precious than any which could be bought with a maxed-out credit card.

The greatest gift which any of us can give is the gift of ourselves, especially to God and our neighbour.

More than any bike or toy, gadget or jewellery, tinsel or tree, the thing that can make Christmas memorable is when we give who we are to those we care about.

In doing so, not only are we giving something that costs, but we give something that money can’t buy.

My own charity,, help put people in need in touch with people who can afford to make small donations that will have an impact on their lives. It’s a simple truth, but it’s one that can be seen in the face of every child who, once bored with their toy or game, looks into the face of their parent and wants nothing more than to be loved.

It’s a simple truth in the gift we make of ourselves to our parents, who have loved and nurtured us.

It’s the simple truth that no husband or wife would ever exchange the priciest of gifts for the person who gives it to them.

In giving of ourselves we make the choice to follow the example of all that happened on that first Christmas, more than 2,000 years ago, when God gave of himself to those he loved.

In swapping the majesty of heaven for the poverty of the manger, the Christ child reminds us all anew that the greatest gift is not one which we cannot afford, it’s one which we cannot afford to be without.

So this Christmas may you be blessed in giving of yourself to God, to those in need and to those you love, and may you also be blessed by knowing the love of God given for you.



About appsam

Jack of all trades! Hoping to be MASTER of ALL
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