All posts filed under: Christmas

Giving Gifts that Give and Give and Give.

Two lists. That’s all it took to undo me somewhat these past few weeks. The first was the one I write up every year as we approach Christmas; the dreaded list of people I need to buy gifts for. Oh, I love Christmas, I do. And I love giving gifts. But the scale of that list has been known to send me into a panic. This year I counted 40 names. The other list came in the mail with a big, bloody headline that fairly screamed at me. STOP THE GENOCIDE! it said. The ACL’s letter told me that, since 2014, “ISIS has been carrying out a terror campaign against Christians, Yazidis, Shias and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. And there’s overwhelming evidence of crimes against them, including…” (And here’s that other list…) Assassinations of church leaders and mass murders Torture, systemic rape and sexual enslavement Kidnapping for ransom and theft of lands and wealth Destruction of churches, cemeteries and religious artefacts Forcible conversion to Islam (Please sign the petition to add pressure …

The Nativity Pig

There’s a pig in our nativity.

My makeshift Christmas scene is made from plastic animal figurines bought from the local toyshop. They sit on the mantelpiece beneath a glass cloche with a hessian star hanging from the top – an idea from one of those home-decorating mags. Jesus is a little piece of rolled-up cheesecloth sitting atop half a bird’s nest.

Porky is the latest addition.

8 Ways to Cope with Grief at Christmas

This guest post is by Launceston author Karen Mace, who is also a counsellor, writing therapist and the director of Healing Place. Karen’s book Healing Begins in the Heart (Balboa Press, 2014) is an honest account of her trials, tragedies and ultimate victories after a deep crisis of faith that lasted many years after the deaths of two of her daughters. Karen and her husband Ross were serving as missionaries in Ecuador when Ileana and Sarah died suddenly and tragically, aged three and twelve. In her book (and more briefly in this post) Karen shares how she lives with grief and her ongoing experience of God’s loving care. Just a few weeks ago another anniversary came around of the day our girls died. November 20th is not too far from Christmas, and very close to the time things begin to be a little ‘crazy’. It’s a time when I am more aware of families doing things together, and although it is quite a few years since Ileana and Sarah died, every year I wonder… What would they be like? …

Santa’s Dead.

She was cheerful, spritely even, as she scanned our purchases. Chattering away to Master-Four, she asked the obvious question for the time of year, “What’s Santa going to bring you?” He didn’t even hesitate. Didn’t even blink before bleating his reply. “Santa’s dead.” Did the whole store go silent, or was it just my imagination? The sharp intake of breath sounded like something elicited from heavy industrial equipment rather than a few pairs of lungs. We laughed nervously and I tried to explain that we celebrated Jesus at Christmastime, that Santa was more of a cartoon character to my son. Her mouth stretched across her face but her eyes were hard – it was clear I’d been branded unfit for motherhood. What kind of mother tells her child that Santa’s dead?! This incident happened a few days after we Googled Saint Nicholas. We had explained that the fiction of Santa was based on the truth of Saint Nicholas, a real man who lived long ago. St Nick’s story is intriguing. Young Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in …

The “YES” That Sent One Young Woman On A Trajectory Of Greatness

You are Mary. Young, engaged to be married to a man – a good man – but a man twice your age. You are chaste, a virgin still, in keeping with societal expectations of presenting a pure bride to her husband. Things are swimming along and then <<<BOOM>>> your whole world is shaken. An angel rocks up to say “hello” with an ulterior motive. Something like, “God is so pleased with you and admires your holy character!” Your head is reeling. You’re confused at the sudden attention. “Don’t worry!” the angel says, “God has a surprise for you… You’re going to fall pregnant and give birth to a son called Jesus. He will be the son of God!” Lifting your jaw from the floor you manage to ask, “How? I’ve never had sex!” And the angel gives the most obvious response. “The Holy Spirit will hover over you.” It’s right about here that most thinking women would have either erupted into fits of laughter at the absurdity of the proclamation, or run away – far, far away. But …

A Humble Birth With A Grand Response

Bit proud of myself. I made my own nativity scene – after many years trying to find something that, A) isn’t a ludicrously-coloured kids’ version, and B) doesn’t cost a month’s pay. I raided the kids’ toy box for some animal figurines: a few lambs, a sheep and a donkey. A bird’s nest made the manger, a bit of creative folding of a length of bandage for baby Jesus, a hessian star – all whacked under a glass cloche (Masterchef eat your heart out!), and voila!   The idea featured in the December issue of a certain home decorating magazine. Er, the idea I copied that is… So our modest little nativity scene (sans Mary and Joseph – still working on them!) is sitting on a side table in our lounge room. Behind it looms the Christmas tree, laden with tinsel, shiny baubles, be-glittered ornaments, twinkling lights and all manner of gaudy Christmas objects. I love it. But the juxtaposition of my humble nativity scene with that other leafy celebration of Christmas was poignant. For …

Happy Birthday Jesus!

There will be a birthday party in our house on Christmas morning.  As soon as our two-year-old son’s sweet little head hits the pillow tomorrow night, hubby and I will be in mission mode; hanging balloons, icing the cake, wrapping presents, setting the table with party hats and whistles. I can predict his response. He will march from his bedroom – he always wakes up perky – and his eyes will double in size as he takes in the living room transformation.  He will laugh and clap his hands and sing, “I excited, I excited” while performing his little ‘I-have-more-energy-than-I-know-what-to-do-with’ dance. And all the effort will be worth it. Perhaps you’re thinking we’re one of those unfortunates with a birthday in the family that falls on Christmas Day.  Well, we’re not.  We’ve decided to celebrate Jesus’ birthday this year with the same dynamism and anticipation as we do our own birthdays.  He IS part of our family after all. I have delighted in establishing our own family traditions. There have been long discussions into the …

Christmas is NOT just for kids

Every time I hear someone say, “Christmas is for the kids” I want to stamp my foot, fix my hands to my hips and, in my most maturest, grown-up voice respond, “It is NOT!” I love Christmas. I love presents, tinsel and carols.  I love the feasting, the family time and the drinks with friends.  I love decorating the tree, lovingly wrapping each gift and driving around in the nights before Christmas to look at the houses lit up like the proverbial.  The season is certainly made richer for the squeals of delight and wide-eyed wonderment of children.  That was evident at the Christmas pageant through Launceston’s streets recently.  Kids hoisted on their dads’ shoulders and jumping at the roadside brought a generous measure of joy to the atmosphere. But let’s not relinquish Christmas to the kiddies. Children bring the merriment, but it was one single child more than 2000 years ago that brought the reason for the celebration – for adults and children alike.  He came via an unplanned pregnancy, out of wedlock, to …

Silencing the “Fill ‘er Up” Mentality

In the largely bygone era of driveway service you would pull up beside a fuel bowser, wind down the window and holler, “Fill ‘er up mate!” at the waiting attendant.  It’s a directive that would come in handy at other such empty moments. On Mother Hubbard days, when the bank account is useless to address the lack of items in the pantry. “Fill the piggy bank!” On Sleeping Beauty days, when you’re feeling lovelorn, neglected and your partner’s aversion to romance is making you mope. “Fill the love tank!” On Hansel and Gretel days, when you just want to eat yummy food and visions of macarons, melting moments, Monte Carlos and mud cake trip loop-de-loops in your head. “Fill the craving!” On Snow White’s Evil Stepmother days, when you just have to have that new strapless metallic ruched dress with the Swarovski crystal trim so that you’re the “fairest of them all”. “Fill the wardrobe!” What’s with this built-in desire to be full?  If it’s not a yearning for tangibles like food, wealth and beauty, …

Christmas for Ordinary Folk

It’s Christmas tomorrow. I hope you will find time to mull over the message secreted at the heart of this time. Some of us have heard the Christmas story so many times that it has lost its lustre. That line might describe me a few days ago. I was reading through the nativity sequence – virgin falls pregnant, travels to Bethlehem, gives birth to Jesus in a stable, shepherds and wise men come to see him – and realised that we rarely give Joseph much thought. Mary gets her fair share of accolades, and there’s a glitter and mystery around the wise men. Jesus is the main character, and rightly so. But Joseph tends to stay in the shadows, his role often downplayed or skimmed over, forgotten. I mean, think how many artists have depicted the virgin and child, Joseph strangely absent. It’s easy to overlook the fact that these famous Christmas characters were everyday people. Mary and Joseph were ordinary folk chosen for an extraordinary purpose: to raise Jesus like their own child, and first child …