Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

14 December 2012

Season's greetings

Greetings to all my readers. This is a time to remember warm sunshine and abundant greenery, to enjoy the glitter of frost and the crunchy feel of frozen grass, and look forward to the return of flowers and warm weather. The King is here in all of it.

Hoar frost on a shoot
For years I've struggled with the Christmas season. Like all the traditional 'Christian' festivals there are many pagan elements involved and I'm not happy to be associated with those.

On the other hand I don't want to be a big disappointment to my wife, friends, daughters, or grandchildren. I have no wish to spoil anyone's fun.

In the end I've developed a workable compromise. I don't initiate any of the things that trouble me, but if other people want to do them I try to be gracious and not stand in the way or make a fuss. Between these two extremes is a place that is sometimes difficult, where I must choose between helping with something I'm uncomfortable with or not helping and risking disappointing people. Even here, I can often find an alternative, something to do that will help without directly involving me in the thing I'm uncomfortable about.

Greetings - But Christmas cards remain a difficulty. This year I'm going to send out greetings electronically wherever possible and this blog post is one means of doing that. I'll be working out how much money I save by not buying and posting cards, and will give it to a charity instead.

So what kind of greetings should I send you? Not Christmas greetings, for sure! Winter greetings, then. How about this slideshow of frosty scenes? They were all taken in St Neots where I live. (If you don't see the slideshow below you can view it as a gallery instead - then click the 'Slideshow' button at upper right).



You might also like to listen to 'Winter' from Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'. Along with the photos and the music, please accept a winter greeting from me at a time of year when (unless you live in the southern hemisphere) the days are short and often cold and the nights are long and even colder. Summer is far behind us, yet it also beckons from the year ahead, warmth, long days, flowers and vivid green leaves turning the countryside into a garden fit for a king.

Emmanuel - Fit, actually, for the King. Everything is so beautiful. That's because it contains the essence of the King himself. Creation contains the stamp of authenticity, the mark of its maker. Just look at the beauty of a frozen landscape, could anything be more beautiful? Could it? Well, maybe. Yet all things are beautiful and glorious with the beauty and glory of the King of kings.

He is here, in this season, in every season.

May he also rest in your heart in love. May you know him and receive him just as he knows and receives you. He is the beginning, the centre, and the end. He is all you need.

Questions:

  • What do you most like about the season of winter?
  • Have you ever wondered why fog freezes mostly on the edges and ends of leaves?
  • Which of the photos is your favourite?

See also:

24 October 2012

Halloween

Halloween is upon us again. But what is behind it? What are it's origins? We take a look at this autumn festival and see that under the surface it's a curious mix of pagan and early church thinking and tradition.

A traditional Irish celebration of Halloween
It's that time of year again. Small children will be 'trick or treating' - knocking on doors or ringing doorbells and demanding treats. If adults did the same it would be called 'making a demand with menaces'!

I don't wish to spoil anyone's fun, but where does this strange custom come from? Few people today will really know what Halloween is all about.

A little story - Earlier today I was passing some houses in the town when I heard someone calling. When I looked I saw a mum with two girls, they had a table set out, laden with various kinds of cakes decorated with worms and other seasonal designs. They explained that they were selling these Halloween cakes to raise money for a cancer charity - a really worthy cause.

I bought a square of chocolate cake with a 'bloodworm' on top (a length of strawberry lace) and on my way to the Co-op I thought about the combination of Halloween and a charity collection.

Church and pagan festivals - Halloween used to be written Hallowe'en which is a shortened form of 'All Hallows Evening' or, in modern speak, 'Holy evening'. It's the evening before 'All Saints Day' so it was also known as All Saints Eve'. It's probably a combination of an ancient harvest feast with a festival of the dead, rooted in the pagan British and Gaulish festival of Samhain. We don't know for sure, but the ghoulish aspects of Halloween probably spring from these roots.

The early church adopted the date and many of the traditions but gave the annual event a new name and purpose as part of the church calendar. This is how they handled other inconvenient pagan festivals too. The celebrations of the shortest day and new year became Christmas, the fertility festival with it's egg traditions became Pasch or Easter, a time of renewed life.

Recently the Halloween festival has been imported to England from the USA, but they in turn had it from the Irish and Scots in the nineteenth century.

Problems - Reusing pagan festivals and traditions may have been convenient, but it has brought a great deal of confusing baggage into church life. Personally, I feel it was a major mistake. Part of this confusion is the modern Halloween, now a thoroughly secular  annual event.

The trouble with that is that the spooks and witches and monsters are based on dark, spiritual powers that are best avoided altogether, even in play. The world may pooh-pooh such a view and regard me as foolish and a superstitious spoil-sport. So be it.

I prefer to have as little as possible to do with all false traditions and pagan origins. I know that Jesus was born, died and rose again. I know there are spiritual forces of both light and darkness and I know that light always banishes darkness, not the other way around. For me, these truths are enough, I don't want the pagan and worldly add-ons.

How to deal with it - To the extent that these events have become secular I cannot avoid them. And although I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, especially for children, I hold them lightly and as much at arm's length as is possible. I'm happy to give presents to my grandchildren, but they're from me - not from Father Christmas. And sometimes I send cards, but only to offer people peace and wholeness in the coming year.

Halloween may be fun, but I don't like the platform it stands on or the traditions it involves. But making and selling cakes to support a charity is a good effort and I will always do what I can to support and encourage things like that. Well done!

What are your thoughts and feelings about Halloween? Do you like it, hate it, tolerate it, or feel indifferent? Why?

See also: 3 reasons Christians must celebrate Halloween

08 January 2012

Christmas lunch at Cornerstone

On 25th December Jim and some of his friends laid on a Christmas lunch for people who otherwise might have eaten alone, perhaps even spent the entire day alone.

Christmas lunch at CornerstoneCornerstone Coffee and Books provided the space, River Church funded the supplies for the meal, Jim and his family prepared and served the food, and the rest of us helped with setting up, waiting at table, chatting with the guests, and clearing up afterwards.

Quite unprompted, Waitrose provided some festive groceries for the guests to take home. Every guest also received an M&S voucher.

Paul and I arrived at 10:30. We spent some time sweeping the floor and setting out the tables (four tables with space for ten people on each). Then, as the guests started arriving we were on hand to welcome them, offer teas or coffees, and chat.

During the meal it was great to sit with the guests, pull crackers, and have some unhurried conversation.

At the end of the meal I had to hurry home as Donna's parents and brother were staying with us, but I think there were plenty of helpers on hand to assist with the washing up and tidying away.

19 December 2010

FAMILY - Visiting York

Today we planned to drive north to visit my daughters and our grandchildren. We set out laden with Christmas presents. We knew that once we reached the A1 about a mile from our house things would improve. The weather forecast was for no more snow today or indeed tomorrow, so we were pretty confident of making it there and back.

Opening Christmas presentsSure enough, by the time we reached Peterborough the roads were clear. Apart from some light frost there were no problems and traffic was running freely.

As we walked up the garden path at Beth and Paz's house an excited Aidan ran to see us and instead of 'Hello Grandpa' he jumped up and down and said, 'Which one's mine Grandpa?' At four and a half one's priorities are always clear!

Verity, Beth and AidanPaz fed us a marvellous lunch of sausages, lentil bake, home made bread, olives, and a great deal more. It was fun to sit around the two tables pushed together - ten of us all told - and eat and chat and laugh together. Life at its best and fullest - family life.

After lunch of course it was time to exchange and open presents (the younger ones thought the presents should have taken precedence over the meal!)

Paz and SarahWe spent the entire afternoon exchanging news, playing with railway tracks and trains on the floor, assembling Playmobil ambulances, and having enormous fun.

All too quickly our time ran out and we set off for the trip home, two and a half hours of clear roads again until we were about a mile from home, then the snowy roads of Eaton Ford back to our house. We were tired but happy. It had been a really good day.

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