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)

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Advent wreaths and crowns of thorns

I was clearing the table tonight for dinner, and I moved our advent wreath. I was careful not to get spiked by the drying-out holly – it seems to get sharper every day! One of the difficulties with Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is that the holly is sappy and soft when you pick it, and tends to die quickly, as well as having no berries! As I looked again at my spiky Advent wreath, it struck me how like a crown of thorns it is!

How very appropriate, I thought. So often Christmas is all about a dear wee baby in an unconventional bed, and these days the whole reason for Jesus’ birth in the world is glossed over – he came so he could die for our sins. It’s fitting then to have a spiky wreath  and to sing some of the older carols which tell the whole story of Jesus’ ministry on earth, and to think, “What does Christmas really mean to me?”

Is it just a nice family time? A chance to eat too much, drink too much, spend too much? Or is it a time to stop and think abut the big WHY of it all.