I don't know about you, but we do Christmas big time in our household. Over the years, as our children have grown up, many traditions and rituals have emerged as part of the 'Clifford Christmas'.

One of these traditions as our children become adults is the production of a 'Christmas wish-list' where each member of the family gives some indication of gifts they would like to receive.

Some have complained that this takes away the element of surprise, however for others it has taken away the painful process of wondering what on earth they should buy or perhaps the even more painful question: what on earth am I going to do with these snowman socks?

So it was on one particular Christmas day that I began the process of handing out the presents which had been stashed under the Christmas tree.

It is my job to hand them out with suitable gaps allowed for the opening of the gift and expressions of delight and of course thanks.

One large rectangular box had my name on it from Ann (my wife). I opened it with expectation and discovered one of those 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles of which 90 per cent was sky. I made all the right noises and moved on to pass out more gifts.

It was later in the day beside the kitchen sink (I say that not to impress you but because I was doing the washing up), I said to Ann: "Darling your present - 10,000 pieces, 90 per cent sky, where did you get that idea? Have you ever seen me do a jigsaw? Do I look like a person who does jigsaws?" (I should point out that obviously there's nothing wrong with doing jigsaws, I've just never seen myself as one of those people).

There was a long silence before Ann replied, perhaps a little defensively: "It was on your Christmas list."

Again a long silence came before I explained it was more of a Black & Decker version that I was hoping for.

As I'm sure you can imagine, this story has been told many times and I am always struck by the fact of how easy it is for words alone to let us down. The amazing truth of the Christmas story is this: that God knew that words were not enough. The Christian faith is not founded upon a book full of words - however wonderful the Bible is - but has its very foundation in God Himself making His home with us, "dwelling" among us.

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates God's love for people, and His determination to sort out the mess our rebellion has made of His creation.

This problem with words provides a challenge to us. As we consider ways to communicate the good news, the words of Jesus echo in our ears: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you will love one another." Words alone won't do it, there has to be more.

Steve Clifford is general director of the Evangelical Alliance