My friend Peter Templeman - one of the people who, humanly
speaking, is responsible for me becoming a Christian - was the vicar at St
Cuthbert's Peterlee, and he invited me to speak at their Christingle
James tells us that "every good and perfect gift is from above"
and is given to us by our heavenly Father. At Christmas time many people are
thinking about gifts, and I decided to contrast "good and perfect gifts" with
the good but rather less perfect gifts that we may be given at
The first good but imperfect gift is Barney the dog -
available from Tesco for £3.50.
It's not hard to think of reasons
why he's a good gift - he's cheap to feed, he can sleep on your bed without
leaving dog hairs on the duvet - but equally there are several reasons why he's
not perfect - he doesn't come when he's called, he won't fetch your slippers
and he won't wag his tail when he sees you.
Contrast him with our
heavenly Father's good and perfect gift of life. James says that God
"chose to give us birth through the word of truth" so he's not just talking
about natural life but our new lives as Christians.
The visual aid is a
bit of gold card with some cardboard letters stuck to it using PVA glue. The
card came in A1 size (840x596mm) and I cut off a piece 500x596mm. The remaining
bit was used for gold letters later.
It's fairly easy to get the
letters right in this case because they're all made up of straight lines. But
it's even easier if you print the letters out large and use the printout as a
template. I used Corel Draw: the letters were very large, in outline (saving
all that black toner, you see) and back to front so I could stick the template
on the back of the card. Corel Draw's latest
version costs a fortune (£300-ish) but if you search for "Corel Draw
select" you can pick up an old version for £3 through Amazon. There's an
outline setting in Microsoft Word, and you can use the WordArt thing to print
text back to front if you want - but Corel Draw is much more fun.
next good but imperfect gift is the Beano annual. This is great - Dennis the
Menace, Gnasher, the Bash Street Kids... but next year this Beano annual will
be forgotten. And who would want last year's Beano annual for this year's
Christmas present? (Actually several children put their hands up at this
In contrast, our heavenly Father gives us the Bible. It's
never out of date; we never grow out of it; God speaks to us through it
whatever our age.
The Bible here is made of big bits of cardboard for
the covers, and foam board (basically, a card/foam/card sandwich) for the
inside, stuck together with more of that PVA glue. Evo Stik is also something I
would recommend for the job. The card and foam board are A1 size - blue for the
cover and white inside - and available from your local art shop. The white bits
are cut slightly smaller because the cover always sticks out a bit beyond the
pages of the book. The cover and the opening pages are hinged with really
really strong sticky tape. I used white fabric tape from a DIY shop. Or
possibly a stationer's. Or maybe even my local art shop.
lettering is cut out and stuck on. It's only paper this time so it was printed
on coloured paper - again, use the outline setting because if you print them
solid black there would be no point in using coloured paper. Careful how you
line everything up.
Open the Bible and there inside is the way James
describes it: the word of truth. I printed these pages on the big
plotter at work - or you can print the words on A4 paper and stick them on.
Spraymount is the stuff to use here: you can peel it off and have another go if
you don't get the words on straight the first time; and the paper sticks on
flat. Put the paper on a bit of newspaper when you spray it or you will find
that everything in the room has become sticky.
The Bible tells us the
truth about himself: how he is holy and good. And it tells us the truth about
us too, and it can be unsettling. We're not always good; we're certainly not
good enough to be with God for ever. So that's where we need our third
The third good but imperfect gift is a lovely box of chocs. Now,
everyone loves a box of chocs, and you can share them around and enjoy them
with your family. And you can use them as a way to say sorry for something
you've done. But they get eaten, and when they're gone and you've been horrid
again, the chocolates are forgotten.
This is where you need the Father's
greatest gift: Jesus. Through him and his death on the Cross we can say
sorry to God for the things we have done wrong. Because he rose again, he's
alive for ever: he gives us life.
The visual aid is another card
like the first, only this one has a blue background and gold
Finally I turned the page in the Bible, rearranged the cards and
revealed John 14:6, which tied everything together, really.
Barney the dog