Tag Archives: Christmas

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))

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.”

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.