Michael Leunig, a Christmas Poem…
I see a twinkle in your eye, so this shall be my Christmas star and I will travel to your heart: the manger where the real things are.
And I will find a mother there who holds you gently to her breast, a father to protect your peace, and by these things you shall be blessed.
And you will always be reborn and I will always see the star and make the journey to your heart: the manger where the real things are.
Me on Christmas…
I am, once again, stumped by the core and epitome of ‘becoming flesh’. I am, once again, stumbling to comprehend the irrational nature of it all. The reality of mercy personified. And yet, I will, once again, choose to believe, accept, follow and fall.
Feliz Navidad my friends. x
(traditional Italian Christmas cake)
Fredrick Buechner on Christmas…
It seems to me one of the miracles of the Christian faith is that the feast of Christmas survives what we have done to it — all the hoopla, clap-trap, commercialism and all the rest of it that I don’t even need to go into because everybody knows what it is. Yet, somehow it does survive. This extraordinary moment when the whole year slows down and you point to this unimaginable event where God somehow became made flesh. It is so cataclysmic; it is so extraordinary; we try to make it habitable; we try to make it cosy; we make crèches and we sing Christmas carols. At best, it can be touching and real. At its worst it can be cheap and banal. What often occurs to me about Christmas is that if it is really true, if the word really became flesh, if the mystery behind all that really took the form of a human life, this vulnerable, tiny human life whose skull you could have crushed with one hand, then there must have been extraordinary anguish and intergalactic struggle to have this extraordinary thing come to pass. It wasn’t an easy thing to happen. There is a kind of terror about Christmas, a kind of holiness and awesomeness about Christmas that we tend to forget. The resurrection and the life came down and tasted the bitterness of death.
One Christmas Eve, exhausted, about to go to bed having put all the presents under the tree, I remembered that our neighbour had asked us to feed his sheep every day he was gone. The snow was falling — this was in Vermont – my brother and I went down the hill to feed the sheep. We went into the barn and we got the bales of hay. We took them out into the sheep shed, cut the string, turned on the forty-watt bulb and began scattering the hay. The sheep came bumbling up, getting close to it. With the smell of the hay, the smell of the sheep and the snow coming down, all of a sudden I realized where I was. I was in the manger and I almost missed it.
I was in this holy place and I might not even have seen it. I happened to see it. It seems to me that in a way, you could say that the world itself is a manger where God is continually being born into our lives, into the things that happen to us. Most of the time, if you are like me, you are looking the other way.
OK – so I couldn’t really just leave a Christmas post like the one below by itself, even for me that seems a tad unbalanced!
The other day I overheard my 4-year-old say the following to my 2-year-old,
‘I have to tell you about Jesus. Jesus is cool’. (She then went on to say, ‘This dinosaur has feet’, so I have no grand ideas that she is the next Billy Graham).
It was a lovely to hear her talk about Jesus with such familiarity. In fact, it made me slightly nostalgic for times when my understanding of Jesus was so simple and Christmas was purely a time to celebrate how ‘cool’ Jesus is in all his truth and grace.
Last year around this time I was involved in putting together a little Christmas celebration and I gathered together a selection of quotes on Christmas which we read and discussed. So I thought in the spirit of Christmas or in the spirit of trying to get to the true spirit of Christmas I would post some of those quotes.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christmas…
We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.
The Grinch (Dr Seuss) on Christmas…
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
I quite like Christmas. I like giving presents, I like teaching the girls about what Christmas is really about and I like taking time for the important things. I do not like feeling obligated and I do not like feeling that I ‘should’ do something or be somewhere. My friend calls the Christmas season the ‘season of should’. I tend to agree. So in an attempt to alleviate some of this sense of ‘I really should….’ I have attempted to put in place a few things that I want to do as opposed to ‘have to do’. So the Christmas season has been officially renamed ‘the season of friends, mojito’s, Italian feasts and David Gray’.
The reading list is coming along nicely so far. Nothing has been struck of the list (as yet) but it has gained quite a few new additions.
I finished reading Cannery Row (brilliant) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (disappointing but happy to finally finish the trilogy) and I am half way through One Hundred Year of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (which I am loving).
Added to the list are the following: Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (care of the Book Club Christmas Book Swap) and Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (I have read this but it is our next pick for Book Club (that will be an interesting discussion!)). Also added are The Garden Party and Summer Meditations both by Vaclav Havel.
Havel has become a recent obsession of mine since watching a documentary (The Power of the Powerless) about the Czechoslovakian ‘Velvet Revolution’ (or Bloodless Revolution) in 1989. The documentary focused on the individuals whose commitment and untiring belief in freedom brought about a mass demonstration on the streets of Prague in resistance to the communist regime. Havel was a playwright whose work began to focus on the politics of Czechoslovakia and the communist oppression it was suffering under in the 1960’s. His opposition and involvement in the human rights manifesto Charter 77 led to his imprisonment. After the peaceful and extraordinary Revolution of 1989, Havel became the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-92) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003).
There were many things that impressed me about Havel, including his perseverance and his demonstration of grace to his oppressors which was humbling and challenging. He spoke with intelligence and wisdom, stating simple but life changing truths.
I am very much looking forward to reading some of this works over the next month or two.
‘You have to begin with the imperative that you are responsible for the whole world’. Vaclav Havel
‘I think cultivating some sort of civic courage is possible, anytime, anywhere, but it has to be done with care and sensitivity and we have to start with ourselves, and not just go around preaching’. Vaclav Havel
I have spent a good part of today trekking through a shopping centre trying to finish off my Christmas list. The day was saved by the presence of a dear friend and the laughs, chats and coffee she brought with her. As a result I am feeling very tired and want a cup of tea and a lie down. Instead I am going to reminisce about our holiday (was that only last week?) and some of the lovely things I brought home with me while I get tea ready for the gang.
Lovely hubby came home one day while we were away with this little bottle of happiness for me. It is a gorgeous bottle of ‘Gin and Rosewater’ perfume by Tokyo Milk. It smells delicious and fresh, it is the perfect for summer.
I also came home with the catalogue from the ‘Masterpieces of Paris’ exhibition. I am not prone to such things but this particular exhibition was so awe-inspiring I decided it was worth it. I am a huge Van Gogh fan and to see ‘Starry Night’ ‘in the flesh’ was a treat. The range of Monet’s and Cezanne’s was vast and lovely as well.
We have been away for the last 2 weeks on a little adventure. A family wedding north of Newcastle, a holiday by the beach in Merimbula, topped by a night with dear friends in Canberra. It was lovely but exhausting – as holidays are with a 4 year old and a 2 year old! But there were many, many lovely moments and fun adventures on the way. A massive highlight for me was being able to go to the ‘Masterpieces from Paris’ exhibition at the National Gallery – it was superb.
So brace yourself to be inundated with photos, thoughts, reflections and ideas that have been bubbling away for the last 2 weeks!
But for now I need some help…our girls were in the wedding party we attended as adorable, ratbag flower girls- as a result they were photographed a lot by guests at the wedding. On a very quick peruse through Facebook this morning I have discovered quite a few photos of the girls posted by people we don’t know. What to do? I don’t put the girls faces on the blog (a very deliberate decision) but I will upload photos of the girls on Facebook. I feel very uncomfortable with others posting photos of them…what to do? Get over it? Ask for them to be removed? Any thoughts? Would love to hear what you think.