Christmas

The moment I look out for every year is that sweet and sacred midnight moment when Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day. The weary world rejoices!

This evening I am on my own, and it feels right. My Intrepid Man is at work. The boys, motivated by ‘Santa Tracker’ to sprint upstairs, hopefully have visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads right …

Its Christmas, and by the light of the Christmas tree, parcels wrapped, food prepped, I soak in the carols and the readings that remind us why…

Why the racing isn’t enough – flying round the shops and through the parties, up to the school and round the shops ‘one last time’…

Why the ritual isn’t enough – our important family traditions. The Christmas movies we watch every year, the night we decorate the tree, each decoration a part of our family story, croissants for breakfast and candles on the table, our advent story books and our prayers for the world, the elderly and people who are on their own, the Christmas cards and opening the calendar doors…

In this moment, in the almost dark, the lyrics weave around me like the tinsel round the tree, the melodies soothe my spirit. God’s word has time and space to land on my heart… making sense of the season.

This moment is enough…

This moment is for

Reverence.

Thin Places

I love the celtic notion of ‘thin places’ – geographical locations, or moments in time where heaven and earth simply seem closer, heaven within easier grasp.

This advent, alongside my ‘daily’ scribble challenge, I made it my goal to notice these thin places in these sacred days leading up to Christmas. Not to feel Christmassy, you understand (although I wouldn’t complain), but to recognize those holy moments and be glad.

There have been many, and I am so glad:

An afternoon in front of the fire, listening to Corelli’s Christmas concerto, knitting a scarf for a dear friend, love woven into every stitch.

The school choir, singing words of truth over our gathered villagers. A  hundred people crammed into the hall and fifteen little bright, shining faces,  declaring that ‘His load is love and His gospel is peace’.

A frosty run, crunching leaves, glittering spidery webs, the canal like a mirror, the air effervescent.

A neighbourhood gathering, the comforting aroma of mulled wine and sausage rolls. The fire crackling with logs and the atmosphere crackling with community. Stories to tell and quiz games to win… Laughter spilling out the open door with our guests as they left, and a hazy, hopeful, happy home left behind.

Thank God for advent. Thank God for the chance to see, and to seize hope this Christmas time.

Joseph

We don’t talk much about Joseph after the nativity story, do we? And stories of Jesus’ childhood are thin on the ground.

This week, I have been wondering how he must have felt to be the earthly father of the Son of God.

Mary’s pregnancy held potential  for public humiliation, but he got over that, and married her, true to his word. But what about his own sense of masculinity and purpose? To go through life knowing that the first child that his wife bore was not his.

I am embarrassed to admit that until recently, I might have seen Joseph as a ‘bit part’ in the life of Jesus, and that assumed we didn’t hear much about him, because there was nothing to tell.

Yet, I see with my own eyes, in my own home, every day, the strength, grace, courage, tenacity, goodness, kindness and generosity of a man bringing up children that he did not give his wife.

And it makes me wonder if Joseph was the same.

Perhaps his role to bring up the boy was almost unremarkable because he did it so well.

Perhaps he just got on with his job.

Perhaps he was steady, safe and strong.

Perhaps he was a jolly good dad, and we see Joseph’s good character woven through the character of his Very Wonderful Son.

A tale of the unexpected

My heart ached when our younger son showed me his letter to Santa this morning. Unprompted and in no particular order, he asked for a specific computer console, a phone and a baby brother. It is with certainty that I tell you that these gifts are not on the cards for him. Either he’s going to be sorely disappointed or he is going to manage his expectations, and be absolutely delighted when he sees what he’s actually getting . Knowing my boy, I suspect it will be the latter.

I’ve been looking a little at Jesus’ family line, and His most lowly entrance into the world. I’ve also been reading about the kind of Messiah that the World was expecting. All hardcore and heroic.

When it came to the crunch, only the ones who adjusted their expectations were able to truly accept the Good News that was God’s gift to them.

So what if the things we are pinning our hopes and dreams on aren’t quite the things that are planned out for us. What if we able to become ones who adjust our expectations to truly accept what God has got for us. We might be pleasantly surprised…

Sing a new song

With our own  framework of infertility and loss in pregnancy relatively fresh and still sore, the decision to spend time in Luke chapters 1 and 2 for me is not easy, but it is important.

As usual, I am inspired by Mary and Elizabeth, each of whom had a daunting and impressive role ahead of her. The message translation tells us that Mary was ‘thoroughly shaken’ by her encounter with the angel; the ESV tells us that she was ‘greatly troubled’. We know that Elizabeth was ‘advanced in years’ as she began her pregnancy.

I wish the bible gave us more detail about the months that these  two  unlikely mothers – to – be spent together; each one knowing that the other would be the only one who could really understand the miracle of their conception stories. I love that in the midst of their feelings, which I’m sure must have initially been ricocheting between fear and excitement, uncertainty and delight, they chose to praise God.

Their precedent is an important one to follow, and I wonder how much better we would deal with our own fears, uncertainties and great troubles if our first instinct was to worship instead of worry and sing instead of stress.

Like father like daughter?

‘The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood’

John 1:14 (MSG)

‘We saw the glory with our own eyes… the one-of-a-kind glory,

Like father like son,

Generous inside and out, true from start to finish’

Makes me wonder, as someone whose theology is little more refined than ‘I’d like to be like Jesus’, how taking that inside and out generosity into our neighbourhood and our community could look right here, right now, and what the eternal benefits might be…

God with us.

Last year when we carefully packed away our Christmas decorations, three escaped the bubble wrap and stayed out all year. I placed a little German carving on the mantle in the living room, a glitter elephant on the mantle in the dining room and a small painted heart on the fireplace in our bedroom. Not full on baubles and tinsel, but obvious enough to me that they were slightly out of season.

The reason was simple. We had just finished celebrating the birth of Jesus our Emmanuel and Emmanuel means God with us. But not just at Christmas. This was a small act of decorative defiance that reminded me that God is with us all the time, in every season.

As the boxes come down again from the loft and we clear space for the tree, it seems like the right moment to reflect on the year gone by. I notice with thankfulness that He has been with us, with peace that He is still with us, and with joyful assurance that He will be with us in the year to come.

The gift of giving

Last week I led a youth fellowship group in a discussion about the messages they receive from advertising media at Christmas time. The overwhelming response was that they felt under pressure to buy increasingly large or extravagant gifts, and that the value of the gift  increased in direct proportion to their feelings for their loved ones.

In contrast, several of the group shared that when it came to receiving, that they understood that the amount of money spent on their gift did NOT reflect how much they were loved, and that they’d rather receive a thoughtful gift than a flashy one.

No wonder our young people are confused when advertising campaigns liberally tell them one thing, but their hearts and common sense tell them another.

I’m sitting here this evening knitting for my Intrepid Man, who has never expected or requested an extravagant gift from me. This year he has asked for a handmade pair of socks.

I know that he’ll receive them with joy, but I’m feeling rather joyful myself, that my wholesome husband just wants to wear a gift that his wifey made. The yarn was sourced from my collection, where it has been for a long while so to all intents and purposes it has cost me nothing. His request makes me feel loved, and my creativity valued. These socks are a gift to us both.

The ‘magic’ in waiting

Sometimes waiting can feel frustrating, like we are being passive and ineffective. Like we are missing something

But today the analogy of proving dough came to mind:

The ingredients have been measured, the hard work of the kneading is done, and the dough is as prepared as it can be … Yet before baking, there is a necessary pause. The yeast needs time – the secret catalyst to strengthen, to form and to  flavour. Without the delay the bread will be flat, tasteless and tough into the bargain.

We may not be actually taking part in the process, but the  wait here is far from passive, as the chemicals sparkle, gluten forms and the ‘magic’ of bread takes place. Only then can we take the next steps.

Pardon the terrible pun, but how much more easily would we deal with our own seasons of waiting if we could accept and understand that we have nothing to prove… Just because we don’t seem to be moving forward, doesn’t mean that our situations have come to a grinding halt. With the right conditions of  nurture and rest – just like the bread we may end up, in the long run, a better bake.

A baby having a baby…

I know it wasn’t unusual for the time, but today’s five minute musing is that Mary was only about twelve when she conceived Jesus.

To be pregnant as an adult is an awe-filled, adventure, often exciting, but sometimes frightening and daunting. On top of her other extenuating circumstances, it fills me with a new found respect for Mary, and what can be achieved when we say YES to what God has planned for us.