Love is the essential gift to give this Christmas

Black male hands holding red paper heart.

Essential gifts include love and caring - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Omicron virus variant is an unwelcome guest bringing further upset when we thought we would be eating, drinking and making merry. Masks are now necessary, though many of us were already wearing masks in public indoor spaces; vaccines stop infections from becoming serious but do not prevent an unseen infection from being transmitted. Overall, the new rules are not a huge upset to festivities, with the major exception of foreign travel and nervous expectations for the New Year.

Meanwhile, most of us are doing well; for the less fortunate, the Food Bank is well supplied; the care industry has problems but keeps going; we are promised enough turkeys. There will be shortages - there always are! Some toy or gadget captures children's imagination and is immediately in short supply. Anne, many years ago, held firmly on to the last two special Lego kits in a shop while another mother ranted that she needed one of them. I suppose Anne decided a fight with this other mother was easier than the fight on Christmas morning between her two sons!

The NHS is doing brilliantly, though most of its staff are totally exhausted. This is the biggest example of caring and compassion in our world of problems. Various people I know have needed to go to the hospital; without exception, they came home with glowing reports of NHS personal and clinical responsiveness.

Some are convinced that the end of the world is nigh and are checking the Bible for details. From the first chapter of Isaiah: "... you shall get no heed from me; add prayer to prayer, I will not listen… learn how to do good …righting the wrong, protecting the orphan, giving the widow redress; then come back!" Isaiah implies it is not about churches or singing hymns, it is about how we all treat each other.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came on earth to be a lifestyle influencer. For Christians, Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God; for Muslims Jesus is one of the great prophets; Jesus' message of love, caring and compassion resonates with all religions, cultures and with the natural world; Jesus gave us the stories he told and the examples of what he did for us to understand the message.

There are lots to be happy about and thankful for; not least the very many carers and volunteers working to keep services going including those planning to work over Christmas. We take for granted that gas, electricity, water, telephones and the post continue to be supplied. The maintenance people who keep them working are forgotten until they park their vans awkwardly. They all do what they can to help us.

"Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen" - actually the day after Christmas. So this is not a Christmas Carol, but the tale of a mediaeval nobleman looking after the poor. Alternatively: "It is the Comanche law that no chief ever eats until he first sees that the pots are full of meat in the lodges of the widows and orphans" (John Wayne on behalf of Chief Puma in the film McClintock). So the prophet Isaiah, King Wenceslas and Chief Puma all tell us to take care of the needy.

Caring and being cared for, loving and being loved, are the essential gifts; children's bicycles, expensive jewellery, hot soup with a cheese and pickle sandwich, are just expressions of this according to circumstances.

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