Bucking current thinking that gift-giving at Christmas is consumerism at its worst, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Rt Rev Richard Dawson, believes that presents are a welcome and important part of Christmas.
“Presents are a great way to remind others that they are important to us.
“This year as you consider your gift giving, think about how the simple act of giving someone a present, or simply being present, can make them feel wanted, loved and cherished,” says Richard.
In New Zealand, more than 1.6 million people aged over 15 years old say that they feel isolated at least once a month.
“Loneliness is blight on our communities, and one of the best gifts we can give this Christmas is simply being there. As Mother Theresa said, ‘Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty’.
“I believe our greatest gift is to address this loneliness in any way we can,” says Richard.
While presents are unlikely to make a difference for those who are suffering great loss or hardship this Christmas, being present certainly will, believes Richard.
“I spent three days in North Canterbury recently listening to people as they coped with the enormity of the losses caused by the recent earthquake. Simply being there, providing a listening ear and struggling to understand their pain – even if I could do little to alleviate it – that counted.
“My prayer is that Kiwis reach out to their loved ones, their neighbours and those in the wider community, so that no one spends Christmas alone this year.
“Celebrating the birth of Jesus should not be about spending. Gifts don’t need to be expensive, nor do they need to be tangible to bring joy to the gift giver, the recipient and God. Be a cheerful giver this Christmas, and share what you are able to make a difference in the lives of others,” says Richard.
Notes to the reporter:
- The Presbyterian Church is the third largest denomination in Aotearoa New Zealand, with more than 300,000 Kiwis identifying as Presbyterian, and 30,000 regular church attenders.