“...what makes you people tick...I have spent the last 12 years behind these walls for (crime named)...It felt very nice knowing that a group of people who don’t even know me thought that I was worthy of a gift...To be treated like a normal human being was a feeling I thought I would never again experience.”

It was a long letter written with raw honesty, demanding a reading without judgement. Apparently a genuine gesture by the women of our church (you people) had taken on the flavour of acceptance and love. Here is some of that story.

In 1999, the women of our church prepared gifts for the women of a maternity hospital, a domestic violence refuge, an aged persons’ home and a correctional centre.

Every stage of the initiative was our joy and delight. Attached to each gift was a contemporary card that told the story of Christ’s love in a few appropriate sentences.

These pretty and varied parcels were divided up and we carefully arranged all deliveries. Yes, we carefully arranged all deliveries, including the delivery scheduled for the correctional centre!

I found myself on the prison run, confident in our planning and with quite an eagerness to deliver the pretty things for Jesus.

I must have arrived with my “guess what Santa brought all the folks in jail today” face. I have no idea what it actually looked like but it was probably frightening to someone not trained in Faces Christians Use. No one behind any desk in the entire place had a clue about my mission.

Eventually I found myself explaining the whole thing to a truly handsome young man.

Out came the “we-are-Christian-women-who-want-to-give-a-gift-to-everyone-here-didn’t-anyone-get-the-message?” speech for the umpteenth time. My Santa face was struggling.

Handsome came up with his own face...the one, I am guessing, that he reserved for the religious oddments of society. Forming a squadron of two, he and I marched across the prison car park to my gift-laden car. He hoisted one huge carton out of the car boot and onto his shoulder in a smooth move. I picked up the other. It promptly collapsed in the middle. Trotting along beside him, scrambling to hold the carton together, chatting Christianly, is a fond memory.

The gifts must have been distributed quickly because, a couple of weeks later, the letters began to arrive. “It often makes one ponder what makes you people tick” remains my most cherished.

Our motive in that gift-giving exercise was not complicated. It was simply to bless people. A healthy thing to do. Generally not a hard thing to do. And very much a Christian thing to do.

Gift giving - an act of generosity

Generosity is an admired characteristic. The Aussie adage, “he’d give you the shirt off his back”, suggests a what-more-can-I-do attitude. The issue is not the expense of the gift so much as it is the expanse of the gift.

Christians can do this well, showing generosity in effective and creative ways.

Gift giving - an acknowledgement of worth

My treasured letter included these challenging words - “It felt very nice knowing that a group of people who don’t even know me thought that I was worthy of a gift.”

Gift giving as an acknowledgement of worth or as a point of honour is exquisite giving. Even if some such gifts “go straight to the pool room”, the fact of the giving registers value.

Christians can do this well, showing honour in the giving, especially towards the “...orphans and widows in their distress...” (James 1:27).

Gift giving - an anointing for death and life

The gifts of the Magi for Jesus contained extraordinary symbolism (Matt 2:11). The gold from the east was so pure it required no smelting. The frankincense and myrrh were valuable, both in preparation for burial and in healing for life. They were anointed on wounds and scars. They quickened blood flow and removed pain.

These weren’t just gift gifts. These were gifts which, when placed before the Christ Child, anointed him as the Pure One, and as One whose death would produce life.

Gifts which anoint may have capacities to heal and to quicken life. They are often symbolic. They are given as encouragements or memorials at the end of a season of pain, at the beginning of a season of freedom, or during a time of spiritual growth.

Death (the laying down of a profession, activity, capacity, ministry, relationship) and life (the pulsing of opportunity, thought processes, creativity) can be beautifully anointed by just the right gift.

Christians can do this well, modelling the Magis’ skill in symbolic giving.

Gift giving is the underpinning of the Christian faith – the giving of the Son for the good of humanity.

Gift giving is in our blood.

Is this “what makes you people tick”?