8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they[a] sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
In today’s penultimate thought, Nouwen tells us that the world likes big, impressive things; God chooses the small things. The Bible reading, Nouwen reminds us, shows that from a very inauspicious start, thousands could be fed. Something little, with God’s help, can become something big.
And so it is with Christmas. Something so small and easy to overlook – a baby born to seemingly normal parents – is the greatest gift of all. The kindness I experienced in December from those – friends, family, my wife – who realised I was having a hard time meant far more than any gifts. Simple acts from colleagues like appearing with tea. Someone who I’d helped taking the effort to write a personal comment in a Christmas card. A hug from Sarah after my phone was stolen.
I look at our own son Ben and the childlike sense of wonder he has with everything – whether his new train set or his old ball. And I pray that we too can share this wonder, this ability to be happy with whatever we have, large or small. May we be willing to share what we have, large or small:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
And may we continue to appreciate the extraordinary in the ordinary – God in the form of a human babe – today, this Christmas-tide and always.
Tomorrow: the wise men are closing in.