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Posts Tagged ‘the real meaning of Christmas’

Jo 17It can be disconcerting at times to discover certain literary ‘masterpieces’ on my laptop that I wrote over ten years ago now! My style has changed markedly since I began my writing journey in earnest in 2004, as has the style of novels publishers and bookstores want. So when two people asked me recently about my earlier novels that are no longer available for purchase, I almost baulked at lending them my own copies, because I find it hard to open them without wanting to change things and edit out more than a few words! I also own recorded versions of these novels produced by CBM Australia and narrated by well-known Australian actors, yet I cannot bear to listen to them because I know I would want to change far too much.

In the end, I went ahead and lent these friends the novels they wanted. After all, they understand they are my earlier novels—but they still wanted to read them. So far, one friend has returned her copy, telling me in the process how much she enjoyed it, to my great relief! Yet I know there was so much more for me to learn back then about the art of novel-writing—and there still is.

In the light of all this then, you can imagine my feelings when I recently found the following poem of mine, written way back in 1985! I am not a poet, but that year, many things were stirring in me that I felt I needed to express somehow. So, having been inspired by Isaiah’s amazing prophecy about the coming Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), I wrote the following—and I have sensed God challenging me to share it once again with you all:

 

Wonderful Counsellor, surround me with your wisdom.

My mind is tired, with indecision torn.

Where is the path prepared for me to follow?

I need you, Lord, to watch, to guide, to warn.

 

Almighty God, defend me with your power.

My weakness wins, my courage ebbs away.

O Holy One, great Lord of all creation,

For strength to stand secure I humbly pray.

 

Everlasting Father, how you love me!

I am your child, forgiven, forever free!

O hold me fast, transform me to your likeness,

Till men in me your face more clearly see.

 

Prince of Peace, bestow your calm assurance.

My heart is troubled, turmoil takes control.

O send your soothing Spirit to surround me.

Speak, Lord, till I am still within my soul!

 

Perhaps this Christmas, you too are at a crossroads in your life, as I was then. Or perhaps you feel plain weary and spent, after a year in which you have given of yourself in so many ways. If that is the case, I pray that, this Christmas, you can truly welcome the Prince of Peace into your heart afresh and receive those life-giving words I know the Wonderful Counsellor has for you. And may each of us, however we feel this Christmas, stop and give heartfelt thanks for the amazing gift of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.

For 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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Jo 23There I was, half listening to the news on the car radio as I tried to think of simple Christmas presents for the grandchildren and work out my plan of attack once I reached the shopping centre. Yet, for one moment, I managed to register what the female politician on the radio was saying.

‘We need to stop this—we need an alternate narrative to offer these young people who are turning to terrorism,’ she was saying to those at some high level political assembly.

As I hunted for a car park, that intriguing phrase, ‘an alternate narrative’, kept echoing inside my head. What did it really mean? Would a simpler way of putting it be ‘a different story’ or ‘a different way of doing life’ or perhaps even ‘a better way of looking at things’?

I entered the huge shopping centre and was soon confronted with Christmas bargains and gifts suggestions everywhere. Christmas songs could be heard all over the centre. Christmas T-shirts bearing silly slogans with no connection to the real meaning of Christmas were on prominent display in one large store. I looked around in the centre of the shopping complex, thinking I might see a big nativity scene featured—but no. Only Santa on his throne in a large area set aside where children could be photographed with him. The previous day, I had been pleasantly surprised to find a manger scene set up in one unobtrusive spot, albeit in a rather toned down way, at a smaller shopping centre. But not here at this bigger centre situated in a more multicultural area.

Then it came to me. We already have an ‘alternate narrative’ to offer the young people this politician mentioned. We already have a different story to tell, a different way to offer of doing life. The very reason Jesus came to this earth and lived amongst us was to show us this and provide us with the way to find that life in God. This is the story of Christmas that we are about to celebrate. Yet so often it is nowhere to be heard or seen—or, if it is, it is present or shared in a way that will have very little impact, in order not to offend.

Yes, we have our Christmas carol events, but even with these, that ‘alternate narrative’ so often sounds somehow irrelevant and not quite true. We have our Christmas church services, but who of those young people that politician was talking about will be there? Instead, it seems to me it is up to each one of us who claims to live by that ‘alternate narrative’ to make a difference in this world throughout the whole year as often as we can and in whatever ways God has gifted us and given us the opportunity do so.

Yes, our world desperately needs this ‘alternate narrative’. It is already there and available. But it is so often ignored or not even heard. So I ask myself, am I prepared to write and speak about and live out that different story each day—that ‘alternate narrative’ of peace with God and through God, that old story of Jesus and his love? Are you?

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b

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It seems to me that Christmas taps into some deep emotions in us all, one way or another. Some look forward to it and love what it signifies. Some revel in all the trappings it involves. Some find the extra shopping and planning for it irksome and are glad when it’s all over. Some find it a sad and difficult time which reminds them too much of losses in their lives and relationships that are no longer there. And some hate it with a passion and are not backward in letting others know how they feel.

While shopping recently, I overheard two grumpy, old men talking to each other in terms that could only be described as distinctly Scrooge-like:

‘Why do we have to listen to all this stupid Christmas music playing?’ one commented loudly, as they stomped along the cramped aisles of a two dollar shop. ‘It’s so annoying! Why do we have to have all this Christmas stuff everywhere anyway? It’s a joke!’

Their comments made me feel a little sad. Yet, to some degree, I understand where they’re coming from. I too am a little averse to crowded shops, tired people frantically grabbing this and that in the supermarket and inane Christmas music that has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas blaring out as I try to think what to buy. But don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. And that’s probably why the empty hype and insane busyness that characterise this time of year disturb me so much. I don’t want my Christmas spoilt or distorted by someone else’s idea of what Christmas should be about. But I do want to celebrate Christmas in a deep, joyous and meaningful way.

So how can I stay in that place of peace and joy as I prepare for Christmas and look towards celebrating Jesus’ birth in an authentic way? I think a key is learning the art of mindfulness, a concept that has been around for a long time but is not all that often put into practice in our busy lives. Mindfulness involves intentionally stopping and being aware of who we are and where we are in the present moment. It involves focussing in on what is real and important, recollecting why it is and then retaining that in our mind as we move through our day. So, rather than being swept along by the anxieties of finding the right Christmas gift for someone or of all the cooking that needs to be done, I can discipline myself to stop and be still for a moment, to become aware of God’s Spirit within me and around me, to remember the amazing gift of our Saviour Jesus, given to us that first Christmas day. I allow that thought to fill my mind, replacing all the worries and cares and distractions and pushing them to the periphery. Then I can move forward, undertaking all those time consuming but special Christmas activities with great thankfulness and a deep joy in my heart.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

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