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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas 1999

This morning I've been thinking about the Christmas of 1999. That was the year my brother David died.

Several days before Christmas my dad called. His statement was stark, void of embellishment, just the naked truth "David's dead". It struck me like a sudden slap, stunned me and I couldn't think. I hung up the phone without asking any questions, went and told the children that Uncle David had died and then called Pete. He asked me a barrage of questions I couldn't answer then I went and sat down by myself. It wasn't long before Grace came and sat with me, held my hand and said some simple words of empathy. Her actions and words wrapped themselves around me like a blanket. I didn't want to move, didn't know if I could, but Christmas was coming, it loomed overhead like a thick purple snow cloud. How were we going to get through it?

Christmas came closer, my parents came, broken and in pain and without David. I wondered how are we going to get through it? My brother Rob, sister-in-law Marian and their children came and again I thought, how?
We got through it. In the midst of our grief we had each other, we had the children and we had hope. We found the spark of joy in the darkness.

Christmas time is no different than any other time of the year when it comes to human suffering.
People die and loved ones grieve.
Families shatter.
People suffer loneliness and depression.
Hospitals are busy.

My family had each other and we held each other up. We had the children and they made us smile. We have Jesus and he gives us hope.
There are those who don't have what we have and are shut out of the light and warmth.

The lesson Jesus taught me through my pain is that instead of pursuing the spirit of Christmas there is more meaning in embracing the Spirit of Chirst and praying for and giving to others.
There are so many opportunities to give at Christmas, the local toy and food drive, the Red Cross, World Vision, Compassion, the Salvation Army and perhaps even an extended invitation to Chirstmas dinner.
To quote Jesus ..."the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
Whatever we do is only a small measure of what Jesus did for us but it is still worth doing. If we all do just a few small things there may be a few more smiles and a bit more light this Christmas.

The most wonderful thing about embracing the Spirit of Christ is that he doesn't abandon us after the decorations are down and tree has become compost.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Perfect Christ-mas

For many people Christmas is a wonderful time of year. They love everything about it and talk about the Christmas Spirit. I must be honest. The thought of Christmas coming fills me with a sense of dread. My stomach clenches, I wake up in the mornings with clenched jaws and a headache. Why?

Christmas for me is a hectic time. I love giving gifts but can't stand shopping or malls. I feel pressure to have the house decorated just perfectly, have scads of baking done and the presents wrapped expertly and under the tree before December 24th and still study for exams, go to work, do laundry, housework, cook meals and this year get a house ready to sell!

I love Christ. I love that God lowered himself to be born in the same manner that all humans are born, but in a primitive barn. "He made himself lower than the angels" and he did it for love.

I love family. I love the gathering of family, the joy and the laughter of those who love one another deeply.

I love giving and, Christmas is a perfect time for that.

I don't love the sense that we must somehow create the Perfect Christmas, that we must create the perfect memories and traditions.

Every year I need to remind myself that if our house doesn't resemble the home on the Christmas edition of Good Housekeeping, and if my family has to eat store bought baking this year, that does not make Christmas a failure. Every year I need to remind myself to relax and remember what is really important.

Jesus Christ was born, not so that we could have a winter holiday, drink eggnog, attend concerts, or even so that we can gather with loved ones around the Christmas tree. He was not born so that once a year we could have some sort hazy feeling called the Spirit of Christmas. Then on December 26 rush madly out to boxing day sales where we swear at those who take our parking spaces and urgently grasp at the best deals of the year.

Jesus was born into a world of hopelessness, at a dark time in the history of a nation in order to be the world's Hope and Light.  Christ was born to be a sacrifice. The perfect lamb for the forgiveness of sin, our sin. He was born with blood and water destined to die a bloody, tortuous death by crucifixion, and he did it out of love.

The most important thing about Christmas is not to create the perfect spirit of Christmas but to answer Jesus' question. "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)

We don't need a fat man in a red suit, a star on a Christmas tree, a turkey dinner. We need what God has to offer, the gift of the Spirit of his One True Son living in us 365 days a year, year after year. This is what I need to remember.