Monthly Archives: December 2020

Christmas without Trimmings

When I was a little girl, we would often have hot dogs or boerewors rolls for supper. We could choose whether to have it with trimmings or without. The trimmings usually consisted of fried onion and tomato, sometimes with grated cheese, or maybe mustard. Quite often the trimmings made the hot dog more messy but added to the enjoyment of it. However, the fried onion and tomato were never a substitute for the meal.

When I got old enough to start making my own clothes, I learned to use paper patterns. The pattern guide would list how much fabric to buy for each size and then at the end it would list the trimmings:- buttons or lace, ribbons or embellishments. These added to the satisfaction with the final product but lace and buttons can never be a substitute for a dress.

Christmas has trimmings and they vary from culture to culture. Some are universal. Time with family is often considered non-negotiable. The media has contributed to this belief that Christmas is not Christmas without family. However it is no more true than the fact that Christmas trees, cakes, crackers and presents are essentials for Christmas.

These Christmas trimmings add to our enjoyment of the celebration. Families forge their own traditions for Christmas. For some it means going to church together on Christmas morning, for others, having waffles for breakfast.

Some of us have had to do without trimmings this year, perhaps because of Covid lockdown restrictions, or geographical distance or the absence of loved ones who have passed away. Some have faced financial difficulties and can’t afford presents in wrapped boxes, or trees, or crackers.

Just as fried onion and tomatoes are not the meal, nor lace and buttons not the dress, Christmas trimmings, as enjoyable as they are, are not Christmas.

Christmas celebrates the fact that God, the Creator and Master of the universe, set His love upon us. He moved the line between infinite and finite so He could be with us. Forever. So that we can be with Him. Forever. He became flesh and for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame (Hebrew 12:2) so that He could remove the barrier of sin that kept us from being able to be with Him, where He is, forever.

No wonder the shepherds left their sheep and raced to Bethlehem, no wonder eastern astronomers followed a star that foretold a king.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23 NIV, quoting Isaiah 7:14)

God with us. That is Christmas. God with me, warts and all, because that’s where He longs to be.

Let us never confuse the Christmas trimmings with the real thing.

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday.

The Legend of Tinsel

When I was young, Sunday School took a break during the December Christmas holidays. Instead, the children joined their parents in church but there was always a Children’s Talk, given either by the minister or somebody from the Sunday School department.

Those were the days when one was best advised to get to church half an hour early on Christmas day because people who only went to church once a year would go on that day.

Now, even before Covid, many churches close for the Christmas holidays and one battles to find a church to attend on Christmas day. Fortunately, our church, Rosebank Union Church, is having two services this Christmas although, because of Covid, attendance is limited to 100 people. We have booked our place.

Yesterday we attended the on-line service and Yaay! There was a Children’s Talk.

However, for those who weren’t so lucky, I decided to post my own Children’s Talk. This is a legend told to me by my mother in the days before internet.

Mary and Joseph were fleeing to Egypt with the young Jesus after the angel had warned Joseph in a dream that Herod would try to kill the child. If you’ve ever tried travelling with a toddler, you will know how exhausting it is. Travelling through the night was impossible so Joseph found a cave where Mary and the child could lie down and have a little sleep.

Herod’s soldiers were scouring the country for any boys under two years old and they were not far behind the fleeing family.

During the night, spiders built a web over the mouth of the cave. When the soldiers came across the cave, they could see that nobody had come that way since the large spider web was unbroken. They proceeded on their way.

The next morning the sun shone on the dew that had settled on the spiders web making it sparkle. This is why Christians decorate their homes and Christmas Trees with tinsel to remember Gods protection using simple spiders.

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

I do not know if the story is true but I do know that God is able to take care of those that belong to Him.

I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) I have known Him use flat batteries and robberies for good. A bunch of spiders is not much of a stretch to believe.

I know that our God is Lord over all creation. By His word He created all things. Jesus used a word to still the forces of stormy nature.

“God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform;” (William Cowper (1731–1800))

Open Wide!

Image by Jan van Oosthuizen from Pixabay

Recently a number birds from the thrush family have visited our bird feeder. Many of them come in twos, one slightly larger than the other. We’ve seen many occasions where the larger bird feeds the smaller although the smaller birds look perfectly capable of feeding themselves. Reminds me of Psalm 81:10. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” (NIV)

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.

Zonkeys

We’ve just returned from a midweek break at Dube Private Game Lodge with the grandkids.

On the property, just outside the campsite, they keep a couple of donkeys. When the kids saw them, they noticed the strange stripes the animals had.

We decided they were a cross between zebras and donkeys and dubbed them “Zonkeys.”

Inspired by the unexpected Christmas Tea that the owners put on for all us campers, we began to feel that Christmas was really coming soon.

rpt

One evening, while drying and brushing the youngest’s long hair, I tried to distract her by making up a song to the tune of Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer. The kids joined in and this is our final copy.

I began to think about why we discriminate against people who are somehow different:- the deaf child, the boy with thick glasses, the dwarf, people in wheelchairs, people of other nationalities or cultures. What on earth makes us think we were all meant to be the same, (basically the same as us,) as if God made some kind of mistake when He created people with differences. This is a subject close to my heart and the main theme of my children’s book, The Saddest Little Sugar Bowl in the World.

Nelson Mandela coined the phrase The Rainbow Nation to describe South Africa. Every artist knows what happens if one takes all the colours and mixes them. The result is an uninteresting smudgy brown. A rainbow would have no beauty if each colour did not retain its individuality. Sure, there is some merging, like the green made in the transition between blue and yellow and the orange created between yellow and red.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

God created everything. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1:31 NIV)

As a bumper-sticker reads, “God made me and He don’t make no junk!” Let us never look down on any person made in God’s image just because they are different. Let us never be the villains who “used to laugh and call him names.”

Viva la Difference

We walk our grandchildren to school once a week. They each have their unique approach to this activity. The nine-year-old boy would like to get to the destination as fast as possible and has to be reined in so as not to outwalk his sisters (and grandparents). The eleven-year-old has music playing in her head. I can tell by the way her feet tend to make walking into dancing. The youngest, who is only six, appreciates the journey. She looks around and picks flowers or collects rocks. She will be the first to notice a fallen branch. She finds wonder in everything she sees. She is also the most talkative and chatters all the way to school whereas the older two are deep in their own private worlds. They are all so different.

Because of their different ages and different personalities we will get them different Christmas presents. No one-size-fits-all will apply.

God treats us exactly the same way. He knows our natural inclinations, our personalities, our preferences. After all, He made us unique. It is therefore not appropriate to look at other Christian’s callings, gifts or answers to prayer and wish they were ours. Our Father knows exactly what we need and how we can best serve Him.

Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift… He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church… fully alive in Christ.” (Ephesisans 4: selections from verses 7 – 13. the Message)

Let us rejoice in our uniqueness and celebrate the different gifts we have been given. We are all different pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle, unique in shape even though our colouring may be similar to other pieces. We cannot fit in anybody else’s place and nobody can take our place.

Viva la difference!

What do you do?

What do you do when Jesus sends you out in a boat to face a storm while He disappears up a mountain? (Matthew 14:21-25)

Image by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay

You trim the sails, row furiously, bail water and trust.

This post is part of One-Liner Wednesday.