Wind in the branches

It’s Advent! Our family always has a real tree, so yesterday we headed up to our local school where we had permission to take a wilding pine. We found our perfect tree, and between four kids and myself, we cut it down, plus a couple of smaller ones for the kids’ bedrooms – yes I know it’ll make a mess but the smell is glorious!

When my son and I were carrying our tree home, we heard a strange noise, like wind rushing through the trees, but it was coming, not from the distant treetops, but from the tree over our shoulders! It was really weird hearing the wind in the branches we were carrying!

I got to thinking – the Holy Spirit is like that, isn’t it? We can notice the Holy Spirit’s movements and actions when they are a bit distant from us, we can rejoice at healings and answered prayers, but how easy it is to miss the very work of the Spirit in our own lives! So often we don’t recognise what the Spirit is doing for us, because we’re so busy and distracted, and sometimes we’re just not looking for it.

Be surprised this Advent! Notice the wind in your Christmas tree – notice God’s Holy Spirit near you, in your living room, spicing up your life!

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Pine needles and Easter eggs

Pine needles all over the house – again!

You may be wondering, why on earth are there pine needles in Felicity’s house? It’s not Christmas again, is it? With all the muddle that the world has over what were originally religious festivals, it wouldn’t be surprising really. Maybe Felicity is a really terrible housekeeper who swept the fallen needles from last Christmas’ tree under the rug, and someone has just moved the rug? Well, knowing my lack of enthusiasm for housework, always finding something else more pressing, such as gardening, or writing a sermon, or reading a novel…

No, it was not me! Actually, in our family we have a traditional of making an Easter tree – a bare branch is hung with decorated Easter eggs (inedible for longevity) as a display for the table. I sent the boys outside to find a suitable branch in the pile that’s waiting to be cut up for our neighbour’s firewood, or to go to the tip, or just waiting. Josiah came in beaming form ear to ear, carrying an eight-foot pine branch which was shedding orangey-coloured needles everywhere! He had to lug it through the house to find me, so you can imagine the mess!

Noooo! I cried! Too much mess!

But then I got thinking. Actually, it’s a wonderful connection with Christmas, using the leftover tree as a way of displaying Easter eggs. It connects the two again in symbolism. I have seen Christmas trees used as the basis for the Good Friday cross – this is just another way they can connect.

Easter can seem so far removed from Christmas – the story is so rich, so dark, so terrifying, and then so joyful, so humbling. Christmas is too, but it needs to be understood in the light of Easter.

May you have a time of encountering the Risen Christ for yourself this Easter. May you see Jesus in the people you meet, and may you be Jesus to them too.

Blessings,

Felicity

Take out the tree

It’s a new year! The kids have toys all over the floor, and the dying pine tree has been shedding needles. Time to take it out.  I took the decorations off the tree, shoving them in a bag to sort out later (well probably next Christmas). I staretd thinking that taking the tree out of the house could be quite a symbolic act. What do we do with Christmas when it’s over? Do we consign the whole thing to the compost heap, and forget about love, joy, peace and hope, while the normal grind gets underway again?

Or does something of Christmas stay with us? Are we aware of the tremendous sacrifice God made for us, so we could be together with God? Does this impact our daily choices, as we deal with family, work colleagues, and all the normal messiness of life?

The church I used to go to would take out the Christmas tree, and instead of taking it to the tip, they would cut off the branches leaving one long trunk. Then they would cut the top third off, and store it for a few months. Yes, that took it to Holy Week. Can you guess what happened next? It was made into a cross, and covered with flowers for Good Friday.

I find the cyclical symbolism of this quite profound, as Christmas is joined to Easter, the Season and the Reason are intricately entwined. Joy and sorrow are connected, for a longer term goal of eternity with God.

May God bless you richly this New Year, and may the joy of God’s presence on earth stay with you every day.

What state is your Christmas tree?

Here in New Zealand it’s midsummer, and over the last week we have had really high temperatures (for us), and tropical humidity. Finally, the rain has come and it has cooled down. The kids have opened their presents, left the wrapping all over the floor, and constantly requested different-sized batteries. Yes, it’s post-Christmas.

But what is left over after Christmas? Our tree is starting to die – we always cut a branch of pine from the local school, so it smells fabulous for the first week or two. But inevitably we forget to top up the water, and nature takes its course, as it slowly starts to die, giving off a less-than-pleasant smell. Is Christmas like that for you? Has it left a bad smell in its wake, of having spent too much money, having eaten too much, drunk too much? Are you happy with your presents?

There’s another side to Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. When I get up in the morning, before the kids claim the TV for the cartoons, the early sun slants in the side window, catching the green tinsel on my admittedly elderly tree. The little shards of bright green light sparkle and dance in the bright sunshine, casting  patterns in all sorts of places where the sun can’t yet reach. Is your Christmas like this? I hope mine is. Sparkles of light from the birth of Jesus reach into every dark corner of our lives, adding joy and hope. This is what Christmas can be, and long after the tree is on the compost heap, and the tinsel packed away for next year, the hope and joy of Christ’s birth remain.

1. Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas;
The snow is not falling and trees are not bare.
Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child,
Warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.

2. Sing of the gold and the green and the sparkle,
Water and river and lure of the beach,
Sing in the happiness of open spaces,
Sing a nativity summer can reach!

3. Shepherds and musterers move over hillsides.
Finding not angels but sheep to be shorn;
Wise ones make journeys whatever the season.
Searching for signs of the truth to be born.

4. Right side up Christmas belongs to the universe,
Made in the moment a woman gives birth;
Hope is the Jesus gift, love is the offering,
Everywhere, anywhere, here on the earth.

5. Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas;
Snow is not falling and trees are not bare.
Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child,
Warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.

Music: Reversi Colin Gibson (20th C)
Words: Shirley Erena Murray (20th C)