Having young children, I often find myself getting caught up in the commercial aspect of Christmas; attending pantomimes, shopping for extended wish-lists and eating mountains of rich food. I am certainly not against enjoying the 'festive spirit' but on reflection I can see that the significance and wonder of the Christmas story can very easily be sidelined when one slips into the consumerist lifestyle.
This year I deliberately chose to prayerfully reflect on the birth of Jesus and what struck me over and over again is just how much God is a Father who 'gives'. Of course, in the birth of Jesus we see a God who gives Himself for the sake of humanity so that we might have life.
But fast track to the rest of Jesus's life and we see that the 'giving' character of God is continually present; be it in teaching, healing, discipling or listening to others. Wherever he went, Jesus was swamped by crowds in search of wisdom and healing. And even in the face of fatigue Jesus did not refuse their requests.
From the outset God comes to give. In Luke 2:11 the angel of the Lord says: "Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you." The angel proclaims that this good news will "cause great joy for all the people" and yet we know for God this is to be the sacrifice of all sacrifices for it will end up at the Cross.
Such is the immensity of God's giving that He focuses His eternal, limitless self on us. Jesus came into the world for us, lived a life in service of us, and went to his death for the sake of us. It is difficult to comprehend a God who made the heavens and earth and everything in it, giving on such a scale. It all seems so illogical but then that is the nature of God and His overwhelming generous grace.
With all this resonating, my wife and I have decided not to buy each other presents this year but instead give the money we would have spent on each other to Operation Rudolph, an initiative run by Christians across Watford that will make 500 hampers for families facing a difficult Christmas.
Please don't be fooled into thinking we are always like this. This is just the start for us. It is not a lot compared to what Christ gave for us but we hope we are able to grow in living lives that are not for us but for others. That is our prayer this Christmas.
Manoj Raithatha is national co-ordinator of the South Asian Forum