Monthly Archives: December 2019

Memories of Christmas

I have many issues with Christmas. I overreact to silly things, I cry with very little provocation, I feel generally unstable and fragile. It probably started in my childhood, without my even understanding it. Why do I only have memories of Christmas with my mother’s family and none with my father’s? Did they live further away? Were there issues I didn’t understand as a child? Probably.

I was praying about the mess I was in this morning. I imagined myself giving Jesus a whole armful of scrunched Christmas wrapping, torn crackers, tangled ribbon and other Christmas detritus.

“What do you want me to do with this?” I imagined Him saying.

That took me by surprise. I wanted Him to sort it out. I was thinking perhaps He would smooth out the paper and fold it up neatly, untangle the ribbon and roll it up in neat little rolls and sort all the decorations and put them together in a box.

“Don’t hang on to old wrappings,” I imagined Jesus saying to me, “they belong in the trash.”

I realised my expectations of Christmas have been shaped by my past, how things were when I was a child, how they were when my husband and I had our own three beautiful children. We were a family. We used to alternate one year with my husband’s family, one year with my family and one year on our own, just the five of us.

I can’t wrap new Christmases in old wrapping paper. Each year is a new gift from God and should get new wrapping paper. Life changes, the new generation thinks differently from the old. Even old traditional carols have been jazzed up and modernised. People die or move to other countries.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples did not fast as had been done in the past and as they considered the right and traditional thing to do, Jesus said,” …neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst: the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

I would like to say to myself, “Do not put new gifts into old gift wrapping. If you do, the old wrapping might be too big or too small and it might tear from much use, spoiling the look of the gift and wasting the paper. Rather wrap new gifts in new wrapping. It can be cut to the right size and will enhance the look of the gift.

Naturally it is going to take me some time to be able to let go of the worthless wrapping paper and still preserve precious memories that I cherish of Christmases past without allowing them to colour my expectations of Christmas present. I trust the Lord to help me.

The Deceptive Christmas Jingle

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

What is Christmas about? If we believe the media, it is all about family. Family togetherness. Feel- good-movies perpetuate this deception. “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the ideal father says to his ideal family before going off to war, or to save an emergency situation, or…

The movie ends on Christmas day when the hero, after battling horrific odds, arrives at the front door to be greeted by his adoring idealized family.

“I’ll be home for Christmas,” sings Frank Sinatra in heart-warming tones.

But that’s the deception. Christmas is not about family. Sure, it’s a wonderful time to get together with family because the kids are on school break, parents don’t have to work and, moreover, it’s traditional.

It only works if you have an ideal family. A father, happily in love with a mother, and two or three well behaved children. No fights, no squabbles, no “Which family are we going to visit this year” discussions. A perfect family. Except there is no such thing.

It doesn’t work if you are homeless, like so many people in South Africa. It doesn’t work if your children have all grown up and moved to other countries. It doesn’t work if you have lost your life partner. It doesn’t work if you have a job that requires you to work on Christmas Day and you feel guilty because you can’t give your family the ideal Christmas that the media portrays. It doesn’t work if you are divorced or estranged from your children’s other parent. It doesn’t work unless you are a perfect person with a perfect family.

I love this song by Casting Crowns.

So what is Christmas about then? Christmas is about Christ. That’s why it’s called Christmas. It saddens me when some churches, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, don’t have a Christmas Day service. Because it is our Summer holiday season, most people go to the coast over December. That leaves the volunteer group decimated and, after all, they want to get home to their families. I understand it but it still saddens me. I wonder if it is the same in the Northern Hemisphere.

The first Christmas was not about family. I am sure Mary’s mother would have loved to be part of the welcome ceremony for her daughter’s new baby. There were no fancy hospitals in those days. Mothers and female relatives were expected to help with the birth. Mary’s family wasn’t there. Neither was Joseph’s family. The people who celebrated the first Christmas with the family were strangers:- perhaps the innkeeper and his wife, a group of shepherds and later, a group of foreigners with a different culture.

Christmas is not about gifts. It is about a gift. God’s gift to a world enslaved by its own human nature. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Is Christmas about love, then? You bet! God so loved.

Because we are loved we can share love with others and then we will be known as Children of our Heavenly Father.

May we all be givers of love this Christmas.

Computers and competitions

I am very competitive. When I felt God was calling me to write, ( How it all began, ) I joined a writing club to gain experience, practice and hone my skill. Every month there is a different writing challenge, from haiku to horror. A judge gives a written report of your writing and points are accumulated for first, second, third places in that challenge. At the end of the year a trophy is awarded to writer of the year and runner up.

Last year I came second. This year I am currently in third place. To be able to improve my position I have to enter every single challenge. November’s was to write a tall tale in 3 000 words about a Voortrekker. During the month I did my research and started my story. Last week we were camping with friends and, although I took my computer in the motorhome, I didn’t write a word. We got back on Friday. Saturday was the last day of the month and the deadline was midnight. No problem. I only had 1 500 words to write. I would dedicate the whole of Saturday to it.

I set my alarm for 5am. I told my husband he could bring me coffee but I wouldn’t have time to pray and read our daily devotion as we do every morning. I wanted to get in three hours of writing before I had to take my granddaughters to Brownies and Teddies. I would skip the Gideon’s prayer meeting that would take place in our house.

I got up with the alarm and went to my study to switch on my laptop. It just stared at me. I jiggled my mouse. Nothing. I stroked the touch-pad. Nothing. My computer would not accept any communication from me. It took me half an hour to realize that though I could access the Windows screen and scroll using the key pad, I could select nothing. It was much too early to ask my son-in-law for help. I couldn’t write my story.

I don’t know how I knew it was God’s interference, but I knew. My Father was not impressed by the way I had casually pushed aside appointments with Him to do my own thing. I was awestruck that He had come so close to me. There was nothing I could do except abandon the idol of possibly being able to come second in the writers club yearly standings. I would have to consciously allow the deadline to pass and not send an entry. Only other competitive people will understand how difficult that was for me.

Of course, now I had time to pray and read with my husband. I even had time to have a quiet time and talk to the Lord and repent. I had not been interested in His will, I was too busy doing my own. Ps 40:7 jumped at me. Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; Your law is within my heart. I was at the Gideon prayer meeting.

As it turned out, all that was wrong with my computer was a flat battery in my mouse, but I know that, had He needed to, the Lord could have ensured that my computer was out of operation for a month. Maybe I could still have finished my story but I had already relinquished it and I wasn’t about to reverse that. I didn’t dare.

Image by Florian Berger from Pixabay