Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Most Dangerous & Exciting Gift Of All Time

Luke 2.8-20

How did you all keep yourselves from getting too excited on Christmas Eve? [1] Did you help to get the Christmas food ready? Or did you have it all to get ready yourself? That tends to be a good antidote to over excitement!

Or did you make some more Christmas decorations, like the ones we made in church the other week? Or did you go out for some brisk exercise to work off all your excess energy? That’s if you had any excess energy, of course!

Did you write a last minute letter to Father Christmas? It’s not always a good idea to leave it too late to write to Father Christmas, is it? But there’s never any harm in writing him a quick ‘thank you’ note to leave alongside the sherry and mince pie - or ginger beer and mince pie if you don’t want him having too much to drink while he’s driving his sleigh.

Of course, there are lots of other ways to stop yourself getting over excited on Christmas Eve - an early night with a good bedtime story to help you relax, or family carols round the Christmas tree, or watching a good film, those can all be a good way of getting ready for Christmas without getting too carried away.

But the shepherds got carried away, didn’t they? They just couldn’t keep the good news to themselves. First they hurried straight to Bethlehem to see what had happened, and then - when they found Jesus lying in the manger - they rushed out to tell everyone else, glorifying and praising God. So perhaps it’s all right to get carried away on Christmas Eve - so long as we’re getting carried away about the coming of Jesus!

The other day I saw a list of the most dangerous toys ever made. [2] Little soldiers and animals made of lead weren’t on the list, but perhaps they should have been. My father remembered getting some little lead soldiers when he was quite small, and sucking them to see what they tasted of, which couldn’t have been a good idea.

But nothing like as dangerous, nonetheless, as one of the most expensive Christmas presents from 1951, which was an atomic energy laboratory complete with four pieces of uranium and a little Geiger counter so that you could point the counter at the uranium and listen to the noise it made when it was close to something highly radioactive. Fortunately because it cost £50, most people were spared the risks associated with this particular gift.

The amazing Sky Dancer doll, which could be made to shoot into the air and descend on its own tiny wings, was much more affordable and caused 150 serious injuries to children before it was withdrawn from sale. One person had a rib broken when the Sky Dancer hit them in mid flight, another suffered facial lacerations and the most unfortunate victim was temporarily blinded - which wouldn’t be much fun on Christmas Day!

In 2007 four million sets of a toy called Aqua Dots, where you stuck tiny coloured beads together with a supposedly harmless glue, were sold nationwide in America before it was realised that an error in mixing the glue at the factory meant that anyone who inhaled too many fumes from the glue was likely to fall into a coma.

Finally, there were lawn darts - which sold for twenty years before it was decided that enough was enough. By then 6,000 injuries had been inflicted on passing humans and pets and two people had died after being transfixed by a stray dart.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that gifts are sometimes dangerous. God’s gift of Jesus was a dangerous gift, for it wasn’t just the cosy gift of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It was also the far more prickly and difficult gift of a challenging teacher who was crucified for upsetting people in authority.

The gift of Jesus is wonderful because, the Bible tells us, it was one of those gifts where the giver is really giving part of themselves. It was a gift which revealed the depth of God’s love for us. But it’s still a dangerous gift, because it challenges us to leave behind everything else we value and follow Jesus ourselves. A gift, then, to handle with care!

[1] & [2] With Acknowledgement to the Yahoo News Service

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