By Rev Neil Cutcliffe
Sweets, so the experts tell us, do enormous damage to children’s teeth.
But be that as it may, the power of confectionery can also soothe many a frayed parental nerve-end.
This thought took me back to a Christmas many years ago when I was out on a parochial visit. My two sons, Gareth and Matthew, eight and six years old at the time, came along for the car journey. Within minutes, a squabble arose about who was trying to sit on whom in the back seat. Harmony was only restored after bribery had been resorted to in the shape of two packets of Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles. Better than headache powders any day!
“Good,” I muttered as the commotion behind me was replaced by the sound of contented chewing. At length and feeling a bit peckish myself, I asked, “Gareth, would you like to give daddy a sweet?” “Yes,” came the prompt reply. Obviously the idea of sharing had struck the right chord.
Two minutes later I repeated the question: “Gareth, could I have that sweet sometime - like today?” Silence reigned. Then a pastille was pressed into my outstretched hand. “Thanks,” I said as Gareth smiled, but little did he know all the time I had been watching his generosity in the rear-view mirror. The pastille had come not from his own packet but had been snatched from his brother’s. Deceived by the sleight of hand, Matthew munched on regardless.
The idea of giving appeals greatly until we get past the idea and down to the actual giving. That’s when some of the enthusiasm begins to wear a bit thin.
Oh yes, we’re willing to give so long as it doesn’t really cost us.
St Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver and by ‘cheerful giver’ he means just that - someone who gives joyfully and wholeheartedly, not someone who is content to offer only the empty wrapper, the left overs, the loose change.
The Christmas message is firmly centred on the fact that God, in His loving generosity, held nothing back. He didn’t give with one hand and take back with the other - “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that all who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3 v16)
It was the kind of giving that cost Him everything. And what of us? Is our giving cheerful? Is it even giving? And remember, God doesn’t need a rear-view mirror to see our true intentions.