Look Busy!

Advent Sunday

St Mary’s Whitby

There’s a bumper bar sticker I saw somewhere that says, Jesus is coming, look busy!

That is a great metaphor for this time of year isn’t it? In some ways we don’t have to pretend to be busy because with our southern hemisphere end of year coinciding with the Christmas season, most of us have no choice but to be busy. Very busy. I don’t know about you, but I always have to take a deep breath when I start putting all the November and December things into the calendar. There are end of year concerts and performances, school prize-givings and breakups, work dos, lunches and morning teas and afternoon teas and drinks and suppers for all the groups we belong to. No, we don’t have to just look busy, many of us are way too busy already.

We can try and make it easier – I try and count up how many plates I will need to produce over the next few weeks, and do a big batch of vanilla truffles to keep in the freezer, ready to hand out to the next child who says , oh mum, I forgot to tell you, there’s a shared morning tea today. Continue reading

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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)

Santa hats everywhere

My kids are getting really excited about Christmas, especially my 5 year old son. The kids had to  dress up for the Christmas disco at school, so they got all the Santa hats and decorations out, sorted out their costumes, and put all the stuff away tidily. (Wishful thinking…)

No they didn’t, they decorated the living room within an inch of its life – tinsel along the couches, tree skirts around the teddies, and what looked like a mannequin of Santa in the corner. I looked again – we don’t have a mannequin! What we do have temporarily is a large wooden cross, about as tall as my young Nathan (5) – it’s here while I find it a new home. Nathan had put a Santa jacket on the arms of the cross, and a Santa hat on the top, and tinsel around the neck bit!

It was a really odd image – the Cross, the icon of atonement, salvation, resurrection, covered over with gaudy cheap red material and white fluff.

Isn’t that how Christmas is getitng these days? The core idea, the real reason for our celebraiton, covered over by silly costumes and hype.

May we uncover our crosses at Christmas time, keep the Santa suits in their place, which is not the central place. Jesus is coming – born as a baby long ago, and born in our hearts today.