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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

This is the time of the year when I am most grateful for a gift I was given over forty years ago now.  I was married in January, 1969, as was my older sister – we were teachers, so both of us naturally chose the school holidays for our weddings. You can imagine our mother’s state of mind, however, as she coped with such a scenario.

But somehow, in the midst of it all, she found time to make my sister and I a very precious gift – one that cost her many, many hours of patient effort.  You see, my mother decided she would write out by hand most of her tried and true recipes for each daughter in four separate ring-bound books, so further recipes could be added.  And I still use these same books today.  My blue plastic-covered book contains good, old-fashioned recipes for cakes, slices and biscuits; my green plastic one contains dessert recipes; my black plastic one holds soup and main course recipes, along with instructions for a hotchpotch of things such as pikelets, scones, fruit punch, homemade glue and a cure for hiccups!  Then there is a smaller black book containing Mum’s wonderful coconut ice recipe, along with other sweet treats and icings.

I can only imagine her feelings as she wrote these out twice over.  I’m sure at the time I thanked her for her efforts, but to my shame, I cannot even remember noticing her sitting down painstakingly writing and writing.  In my mind I was probably quite dismissive – with my twenty years of never having really looked after myself, I would manage.  Now, however, it’s a different story.  Now, looking back, I can almost feel her pain as she sat and wrote, alongside the pride that she was creating something of value she could pass on to us.  Mum did not work outside of the home – in fact she never had the opportunity for much school education – but she knew she could cook.  Yet there must have been pain too – after all, my sister and I were her only two children and her life largely revolved around caring for our Dad and us. So our getting married must have left a yawning gap in her life that again, I never fully appreciated.

Love is costly at times, isn’t it?  My Mum loved my sister and I enough to pour her life into us and then, as we left, was determined to perform one last labour of love.  So as I turn the pages that are rather brown and dog-eared now to find Mum’s tried and true Christmas cake recipe, I think of her with love and gratitude.  But I think too of an even greater love that came to earth at Christmas – a love that is beyond imagination, a love that is priceless, a love that fills me with wonder and awe.  And I am so grateful.

To us a child is born, to us a Son is given

And the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

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I wonder if you’ve ever turned your hand to creating your own unique Christmas gingerbread house?  Last Saturday I witnessed around eighty adults and children do just that – and I have to admit I’ve never in my life seen so much icing and so many lollies in the one place at the one time, nor such an incredible diversity of style, technique and creative ability!  As the afternoon began, the first task was to work out which bits went where in building the basic house and then actually assemble it all.  And judging by the intense looks on the faces of both adults and children, this was serious business.

But then there was the obligatory waiting period to allow the icing joining the walls and roof together to dry – and that’s where I came in.  You see, I had been invited to speak during this time – and believe me, it turned out to be quite a challenge!  I suspect that listening to anyone at this strategic point was not high on the agenda of most children present – not to mention quite a few adults!  Their minds (understandably) were on lollies and how they would attach what where and how many they could fit on (and in) their creation, when the moment came.  Well, I did my best to talk over all the noise and focus on those who were listening – and I hope what I said honoured God.  Yet I could hardly be a match for all those gingerbread houses waiting to be decorated.

But after I finished speaking and mentally picked myself up, I soon noticed something that truly touched me.  I watched with interest as quite a few mums shared a special afternoon with their young daughters, helping them create the gingerbread house of their dreams, at times letting go of their own neat decorating concepts in favour of allowing their children free rein to be their own creative selves.  Some brave grandmothers were there too (and one Granddad), patiently helping grandsons and granddaughters with their creations.  It was quite moving to see them leave together later, proudly carrying their cellophane-wrapped masterpieces.

And whether all these mums and grandmums knew it or not, they were in fact modelling something of the heart of God I had tried to share with them as I spoke – that loving, gracious heart that has reached out to each one of us in sending Jesus into the world, that heart that wants to relate so intimately with each one of us, leading and encouraging us in our journey through life.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  (1 John 4:9)

May we all hear God’s heart this Christmas, beating with love for each one of us.  May we not be so distracted with celebrating Christmas that we forget the Christ, the Reason for it all.

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