Tag Archives: Christmas

The Candle of Love: Conflict and Love

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

Publisher HarperCollins
Released 1992
ISBN ISBN 0007152590

What Are You Giving Up For Advent?

This morning I was standing in line at the cash register at a local store.  There was Christmas music playing in the background, and I became aware that all three of us in line were toe tapping etc. to the music.  I noted this to them and suggested that it must mean that it was early in the season as later on we would likely be complaining about being tired of hearing it.  We had a nice chuckle, and one of the women noted that it wasn’t even December yet.  When I commented that Advent starts tomorrow one of the women asked what I’m giving up.  I said that we give things up for Lent and not Advent, and that it is a good thing!  That got me thinking…

We actually give up many things during Advent don’t we?

  • We give up common sense with respect to our eating habits.  Our best intentions with respect to eating healthfully typically go out the window as the chocolate, candy and home-baked sweets are set out to tempt us, and big family dinners go on and on!

  • We give up on our budgets as we buy special clothing for Christmas parties, and get caught up in all the Christmas shopping hype.  Out come our credit cards and we lose track quickly of how even really great prices can be too much if you buy too many things.

Neither of those are good for us, but there are more things given up during Advent and Christmas…

  • We relax those tight fists on our purse strings and donate more to charities and causes.  Knowing this it is the main time of year for organizations such as World Vision to put out catalogues of items so that people see something concrete to go along with their monetary donation.  Along with our money we loosen up and give more of our time and talents at this time as well.  People go out to entertain at nursing homes, work to collect food and clothing for food banks etc.

  • It is a time to give up on despair, to be replaced by the hope that comes with the birth of the Messiah.

  • We give up on arguments, feuds, and wars (remember hearing about the troops in the WWI in 1914 meeting in no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas) and accept the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace!

  • We let go of our inner Grinch and, in joy, we smile, sing, and celebrate the birth of a baby boy!

  • And finally, out goes our loneliness as we accept the love of God and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So it turns out the question the woman asked me in line this morning was pretty insightful after-all.  What will I give up for Advent?  How about you?

It’s Just Around The Corner And It Just Might Make You Smile!

It is unusual, but I rather like this picture of me.  It seems to depict a moment of calm.  One of the most striking things I notice when I look at it, though, is how tidy and clean that portion of the room is looking.  This is a picture from one of our two main social gatherings we hold at our home each year during the holidays.  No matter what the house normally looks like, and I assure you this is not it, for at least those two days the upstairs is both clean and tidy.

This topic of tidying has come up before in my blog in the context of a blog about panic-clean-up boxes.  What I want to look at today is not the act, but the anticipation.

It was just today that it really sunk in for me that next week is Remembrance Day. For me on November 11 at approximately 12 PM Christmas begins.  I know that it won’t even be Advent yet, but that is the afternoon when the Christmas music gets added back onto my I-pod for the season and the first hints of Christmas decoration will begin to peek out from the closets and storage areas of the house.  This being the case, it is time to start picking away at the tidying job.

It is important in our lives to look forward to something.  It may be as simple as looking forward to that after-supper cup of coffee, special like a get-together with someone special, or something big like Christmas, Hanukkah, or Eid.  I’ve been down lately but I had plans with a good friend for after school today and my step got gradually lighter today as I realized it was getting closer and closer.  This is a special kind of magic that comes with Christmas.  In Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch puzzled to find that, ” It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.”

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we remembered to sprinkle a little of that magic into every new day as we get out of bed?  Every new day is a special gift.  Of course not everything may go our own way, but it is a day you have never yet experienced and we don’t know what pleasant surprise we might miss if we are looking down at our feet and waiting for the veritable shoe to drop!  Instead we could turn every corner looking forward to the new view, meet every person knowing we could make them smile, and go home at the end of the day refreshed rather than wrung out!

Santa Claus, Christ, And The Easter Bunny

Bonnets and Baskets Tea

What events do your family celebrate?  Many families celebrate birthdays and  anniversaries as important family milestones.  For Christian families we celebrate Christmas and Easter, Muslim families Ramadan and Eid, Jewish families Passover, Chanukkah, etc.  For the purpose of this post we are going to focus, as I usually do, on the Christian traditions.


What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word Christmas?  I’m willing to bet that for a number of you it was either a tree or Santa.  Sure, lots of people would have pictured a manger scene, a star, an angel, or maybe an Advent wreath, but for every one of those I bet there are two people out there wishing they could have a do-over.  How about Easter?  Images like crosses, palms, nails, empty tombs, mix in with brightly decorated baskets filled with chocolate and candies, bunnies, and chicks.


Both of these celebrations have, at their hearts, the life of Jesus Christ.  Christmas celebrates Jesus taking on human life in the unlikely form of a helpless infant who was almost immediately the focus of a plot to kill him.  Easter celebrates Christ’s rising from the dead, but not without the pain and sacrifice of his arrest, and crucifixion.


The other day I was surprised to hear students in my class discussing Easter gift giving.  I don’t mean asking what their family puts in the Easter basket/ what the Easter Bunny brings, but actually discussing the exchange of Easter gifts like we do Christmas gifts.  It seems silly that the idea bothered me a bit, after-all I really enjoy buying Christmas gifts for people, and of course opening mine.  It just doesn’t seem to be a part of Easter. 


My husband and I have drawn some odd lines with our family traditions. We told the kids all about Santa Claus and even now read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, after getting home from the midnight communion service.  We decorate extensively (well, I do), have stockings, and exchange gifts.  Somehow this doesn’t seem to lessen the event as a celebration of the birth of Christ.  Easter on the other hand is all about church.  I put up a few decorations like spring flowers to brighten things up after the long winter, but we have never pretended even for a moment that there was an Easter Bunny.  We coined the term Easter Parents to explain who put out the tiny pile of treats on Easter morning (not to be touched until after church). 


It seems hypocritical to “lie” to our kids and tell them about Santa Claus, the spirit of Christmas who enters into people and makes them more giving, and then not follow along and tell them about a bunny who delivers treats to children on Easter.  I’m sure no real harm would be done.  It is just that while at Christmas we are celebrating an entirely happy event, the birth of a child, Easter is much more complicated.  Jesus was a gift from God.  Like the birth of any child this is a joyous event.  Theoretically, our gift giving is inspired by this gift. 


Easter is about a huge sacrifice made by an innocent man to take away the sins of others.  Jesus bled, was ridiculed, and died a shameful death.  That is the most amazing gift anyone could give to another, but it is not easy to deal with.  We celebrate Christ’s defeat of death when he rises on the third day, but the celebration is necessarily coloured by the events of the previous week.  I see no role for a bunny carrying a basket of eggs here.


Don’t get me wrong, I think bunnies are adorable.  I have a couple little ceramic bunnies on my mantle along with a jug of artificial spring flowers and palm branches.  My kids will get a few chocolates, a book, and new socks or something on Sunday morning.  I love Cadbury Easter cream eggs, and think the ads with the bunny clucking like a chicken are brilliant.  But Easter is about church, services like Good Friday complete with the somber reminder of the cross, as well as Easter worship with communion. 



Is Christmas Supposed to be Exhausting?

This past December 23rd as I fell exhausted into bed I thought back to all the years my mother talked about how tiring Christmas was.  Throughout the last few months the big question on the lips of most people I know was, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  Well, whether we were ready or not, Christmas came.*

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, many people feel all kinds of pressure.  Some worry they won’t be able to get the finishing touches done, some struggle with choosing the perfect gift, while many struggle with being able to provide anything special at all.  There are issues of excessive commercialism struggled with as well as efforts to find lost spirituality.  With all this we wonder why it is so hard, what we are doing wrong? As I lay there, mind open to God, it occurred to me that maybe we are meant to reach Christmas Eve physically and emotionally tired, worried, and all but hopeless.

I realize the idea seems strange, but stay with me.  Mary was nine months pregnant.  For the past several weeks it would have been all she could do to carry out the everyday tasks without becoming out of breath, her back would have been sore, along with other common issues of pregnancy.  On top of this she had dealt with at least six months of gossip going around her community about her pregnancy.  As a young, first-time mother I am certain that she wanted nothing more than to be at home with her mother and other family members around to support her through the birth of her baby.  As the last days of waiting approached what did Mary hear? “Road trip!”  Packing, planning, worry about finances and the dangers of the road, what fun!

On the road from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, which depending on your source is 79 or 80 miles as the crow flies, Mary walked or rode their donkey for approximately three days straight.  Presumably at some point on the last day (not in December incidentally) she began having contractions.  Riding into Bethlehem she must have been weary, frightened,  and when she got the news that there was no room for them I imagine she felt like giving up!

So, there we were on Christmas Eve, with Mary, feeling drained and hopeless and then…a tiny infant breathes his first breath and hope is born into the world once again!  Glory be to God in the highest; on earth peace; good will toward men Luke 2:14

*Of course, I realize that there are millions in the world who do not celebrate Christmas at all.