At this time of year, many of us are thinking about what gifts we can give to our family and friends to celebrate Christmas. I usually enjoy buying Christmas presents, but it can be difficult if someone doesn’t seem to particularly want anything or when finances don’t permit many things to be bought or if the gift someone really wants is just beyond us.

This time of year always prompts me to reflect on value. What makes an item of jewellery or clothing ‘worth’ a certain amount? Who decides what the latest ‘must-have’ item is and how much it should cost? Value seems to be in the eye of the beholder even more than beauty; what one person considers reasonable and proportionate seems extortionate to someone else!

I then inevitably move on to consider all the gifts which are (to me, at least) immensely valuable, but which money can never buy. These include health, happiness, peace, acceptance, harmony and contentment.

The older I get, the more I value contentment as the most precious gift. Contentment includes both happiness and satisfaction, and as such seems to me to be valuable beyond money.

So many of our problems in life seem to be bound up with dissatisfaction. We see this manifested in ingratitude on a daily basis; no matter what gift you give to some people, they are dismissive of it. There’s always a better item out there which would lead to that elusive happiness. Even the rich are not necessarily content. Dissatisfaction is a poisoned chalice, often filled with resentment and entitlement that sour our lives unpleasantly.

Contentment, on the other hand, oozes gratitude, thankfulness and peace, and as such seems to me to be a precious gift.

Contentment is seen in the little things in life: the well-fed baby nestled in its mother’s arms, sleeping without a care in the world. Contentment is seen in the child happily taking apart a cardboard box and playing with it for hours. Contentment is seen when we realise we are blessed by God, that His undeserved favour is ours and that He will meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

I wish I could wrap contentment in a shiny box, adorned with a sparkly bow, and give it to all those I care about as my Christmas present to them. But contentment is not mine to give, alas. I can only pray that God will open people’s hearts to receive this gift which He freely gives and enables all to see its value and embrace the satisfaction He provides, which money can’t buy.