Posted in Christmas, Reflections
Tagged Christmas vacation, community kitchens, cooks, doctors, firefighters, hospital staff, nurses, people who work holidays, plow drivers, police, thanks
This past Sunday we lit the fourth Advent candle, the candle of love. As we did so I got thinking about what we know of love. Church goers will be familiar with the scriptural quote from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is a love that would be hard to emulate wouldn’t it? And then there are the words from 1 Corinthians 13,
1If I speak in the tonguesa of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,b but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
On reading these sections of the Bible I think we risk getting a very romanticized idea of perfect, comfortable love which will always meet our needs and never be challenging. So what about all those conflicts in our families? I believe we miss out on a rather significant point from God’s love letter to his people, as the Bible is often called, we have often been in conflict with God.
In my classes lately we have been looking at Dr. John Gray’s love letter technique for dealing with conflict within relationships. One of the things that is so powerful about this technique is that it focuses not on everything that is wrong with the other person, but on our own feelings. The idea is that by going systematically through all the feelings and writing them out we will find ourselves back at love. There is a section for each of; Anger, Sadness, Fear, Regret, and Love. My students often start out rejecting the idea out of hand because it starts out with such negative feelings. After all, we aren’t supposed to get angry, jealous, etc.
Let’s look at those again. We have read about the wrath of God, and out of anger Jesus destroyed the fig tree. Every time humans have turned their backs on God and strayed it must have saddened God, as it would any parent when rejected by their children. Jesus is moved to sadness over the troubles of others, and he cries in sadness and some degree of fear over the challenge in facing the cross. It seems clear that God has felt regret if only by looking at the number of times we were cast out, sent into exile or in other ways punished, only to be taken up again in God’s arms.
If things in your relationships are not all rosy and exciting as we head into Christmas, do not feel that the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are not for you! It is because of God’s love (anger, sadness, fear, regret and all) that we were sent the awesome gift of Jesus. It is out of God’s love that we are offered grace. It may take us years to unwrap it, but the gift remains there for those who believe.
To find out more about the Love Letter Technique read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by Dr. John Gray
Posted in Bible Study, Christmas, Reflections
Tagged Advent, anger, Christmas, conflict resolution, fear, God, grace, Jesus, love, regret, sadness
The past week or so I have been in a rather down mood. Sitting on the couch after work one day recently I was giving serious consideration to cancelling our annual carol sing event etc. Today I remembered that I had ground beef in the fridge that would be wasted if I didn’t use it up. I fried it up and added the fruit and spices that my husband had picked up for me. As it started to cook up, I found myself tapping my toe and whistling a Christmas carol. This is the recipe I was cooking!
1 ½ lbs ground beef (fried and drained) 1 can apple sauce
4 grated apples 1 pkg currants
1 pkg raisins 8 oz citron
8 oz mixed fruit ½ c butter
1 c brown sugar ¾ c cider vinegar
1 c molasses
We know of the Christmas tree, the Christmas pageant, the Christmas gift, and for many parents of little girls, the Christmas dress. The little boy equivalent I guess is the little dress shirt with a tie or bow tie. From their very first special Christmas sleeper parents head out to the stores, or look in catalogues, early in December or even earlier if they want photos done, to get that special item. If you are having photos done they get to wear them that day (or for an hour or so) and otherwise they have to wait until Christmas Eve, Christmas day or some special party.
My husband and I were walking through the stores the other day and saw a display of fancy dresses for young girls. It brought back a lot of memories. This is one of the few occasions for which we are willing to buy completely impractical clothing items for our kids. Why is that? I think it reflects back to a time when people would only have two or three dresses. At this time a the gift of a new dress would be very special. Now most of us have so many clothes that we end up getting more fancy to remain special.
Think about the other named dresses. There are baptism dresses, wedding dresses, prom dresses, dresses for first communions and more. What do they have in common? They are all dresses to mark special occasions in the lives of the wearers, many of them rights of passage in our society. Christmas is just such an occasion as we celebrate the birth of our saviour, born anew into our hearts each year.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly!
Fa la la la la, la la la la
At school today the kids in one class got talking about Christmas decorations around their homes. Some said that their parents, mostly mothers, put their decorations up in November, while others said trees go up on the 23rd of December and come down on the 25. The thing that remains the same is that for people who celebrate Christmas, either for secular or religious reasons, do some kind of decorating.
One person said her mother was into snowmen and their whole house is filled with snowman decorations. My mother-in-law had a collection of hundreds of angels. When I first moved out on my own I focused on Santa. Every year I got a new Santa for the tree and I did several cross-stitches of Father Christmas. Later on, getting disgusted with the commercialism of the season, I changed my focus to nativities. It probably sounds a little strange to collect nativities, but there it is…
We aren’t done decking our halls at home yet. I have many of my nativities, some snowmen, some Santa figures. Some of the things used to belong to my grandparents, some to my husband’s family, and the nativity above represents months of work and enjoyment painting at a local Clay Cafe. Almost all the decorations have some deeper meaning or pleasant family related memories that go with them.
Regardless of what form your “boughs” take, I hope that as you deck your halls it is with a sense both of family history and hope for the coming kingdom!
Posted in anticipation, Christmas, Faith, Reflections
Tagged angels, boughs, Christianity, Christmas trees, Deck the Halls, family, Father Christmas, Santa, snowman
I believe I have mentioned in the past that I have been doing relaxation exercises with my high school classes each day this year. Today I selected an exercise from the book Five Good Minutes in Your Body: 100 Mindful… By Jeffrey Brantley which was called “Permission to Stop.” The basic idea was that just as momentum keeps a ball rolling once it is started, once we are running (physically or emotionally) it is not at all easy to get stopped in order to care for ourselves.
This is a particularly apt time of year to be looking at momentum and rest. As the days darken we run into the other side of momentum. Caught up in the “rat race” of shopping, entertaining, celebrating, wrapping, baking, etc. we are inclined to keep going long after even we are aware that we are exhausted! Lying in bed at night, bodies at rest, our brains take over and run through all the things we still need to get done. On the flip side of momentum, objects at rest remain at rest. Once sitting down after supper it becomes a challenge to get up and drag ourselves to meetings and activities, no matter how much we will enjoy them after we get there.
So, when you feel exhausted and recognize it give yourself permission to stop. Sit down and just be still. Breathe deeply and pay attention to sensations in your body. Do you still feel motion inside you? Settle and breathe until it finally stops. When you feel glued down, remind yourself of the reward of the coming activity. The trick, which I have yet to perfect myself, is balance. So fight the power of momentum and let balance carry you through the Christmas season.
By the light of one small candle
Total darkness disappears.
A glimmer of hope
Begins to glow.
One of my favourite literary terms we learned in high school is pathetic fallacy. I see examples everywhere; in books, on tv shows, and sometimes in real life. Today as I headed out to the doctor’s office it was raining. I was somehow not surprised though, it seems like it has been raining every time I came here for ages!
I don’t think this counts as pathetic fallacy, since I rather like seeing my doctor. Now if we were talking dentist appointment that might be different! Here are a couple of examples from my lifetime
Remember all those Remembrance Days where we went to the cenotaph in the cold, driving wind and rain or snow? It made trench life more real to me as my fingers froze to the metal keys on my clarinet. How dare I complain about that hour or two in comparison to months on end?
The Christmas Eves when the first sparkly flakes of snow started just as we stepped out of the Christmas Eve service bespeaking the miracle of Jesus birth.
The Sunday’s when the clouds cleared just as the message of hope came out and the sun threw its light into our midst just as the Spirit was lighting our spirits.
Bright sunny days when happy couples share their weddings with families and friends. To be fair, I think a lot of that is humanly contrived as the majority of people schedule their weddings at times and in places with the maximum chance of good weather.
In historical or Biblical society, what weather would you expect to go with the shame of an unwed teen mother traveling across country? What time of day would you set a birth? What weather goes with the hope we are seeking during the first week of Advent?
As I sat in the choir this morning I had a great view of our church nativity scene. It being the first Sunday of Advent, however, it was not what you might expect to see. There is a big lighted, open fronted, wooden barn. Inside there were a couple of sheep and a shepherd.
- Everyday life in Bethlehem. Shepherds, farmers and their families.
This is actually the most normal scene it could be. Most barns and stables are there for the farmers, in this case shepherds, to house their animals. Barns are not for people to stay in, and certainly not to be confused with maternity wards! Christmas Eve will see a young family move into the stable. How does this come to pass? They will be in the stable because there was no vacancy at any of the inns in Bethlehem.
This is a pretty familiar story isn’t it? I wonder if there are vacancies in our hearts for the travelers, the tired, the poor, the displaced, and other folks in need in our communities and our world. In Bethlehem the inns were filled up with those people, in town for the census, without families with whom they could stay. Not only that, but they were the ones who had started out early, planned wisely, and traveled quickly. From many people’s perspective, Mary and Joseph brought their problems on themselves, they didn’t deserve a room since they didn’t have their acts together! Mary,however, was in no condition to travel more quickly.
How often do you hear people question whether or not the poor deserve our support. After all, “If they didn’t want to be poor they should get off their butts and get jobs!” When we feel this way, the rooms of our heart are all filled up with self-righteousness, pride, and prejudice. For those people most in need, their material help may lie with us, so we need to pray for help with clearing out those undesirable tenants. Remembering that we in no way deserve the grace of God, and that we constantly do things that make us less deserving, should be the humbling we need to remove the pride and self-righteousness. The only thing we can do to get rid of the prejudices taking up space in our hearts, is to learn about, and get to know those who need our help.