THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
As is usual at this time of year, I’ve already started to flap and twirl as my ‘to do’ list grows longer and Christmas looms ever nearer. I’m someone who takes a while to get things into perspective sometimes and until that moment happens I have a tendency to do what my children call my ‘headless chicken’ act!! This usually involves stomping purposefully from room to room whining about how much I have to do whilst not actually doing anything productive at all!!
This was the scene in The Vicarage the other day as witnessed by my 14 month old grandson Edward and faithful hound Toby. Toby is well used to moments like these and sensing that a walk was probably not on the cards right now, took himself sensibly off to his bed in the other room. Edward, on the other hand, found it hilarious and decided that blowing dribbly raspberries at me whilst throwing his toys over the fireguard was the best way forward!
It’s hard not to laugh when faced with an innocent child who thinks your adult paddy is funny, so I picked him up for a cuddle and as he diligently smeared my clergy shirt with drool, I found myself thinking of just how little a child needs to be happy. Warmth, food and someone to love them and they’re pretty content most of the time.
With the writing of this article at the forefront of my mind (I was late for the deadline yet again - sorry Clare!) my thoughts turned to Christmas and another baby - Jesus. All our depictions of the baby Jesus show him tucked up snugly in soft, warm straw being gazed upon by adoring people and surrounded by cute fluffy animals.....but it simply wasn’t like that really, was it?
For a start, Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary traipsed for miles on a donkey to register for the census. Now, having ridden a horse myself this summer, I can assure you that being heavily pregnant and bouncing along on a donkey wouldn’t have been a pleasurable activity!! Once there, they had the stress of finding somewhere to stay and ended up with the ‘budget room’, bedded down with the livestock where Mary gave birth to her baby. The chances of the straw being clean and smelling of freshly talcum-powdered baby or that there wasany real warmth, given that stable doors aren’t known for being draught proof, are all highly unlikely. But this is the image that we all,
me included, conjure up for ourselves at Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus our Saviour.
Our ideals and our realities rarely match up; they didn’t when Jesus was born and they don’t for us today. Often this is even more evident at Christmas when our ideals of the whole family sitting down together for
a lovely meal and snuggling down in a cosy room to open presents from under the fairy light festooned tree are met with the realities of frazzled, overworked parents praying that the turkey will cook before
the kids murder each other with the latest gadget that someone thought to be a suitable present, whilst the dog is fusing the Christmas tree lights with his leg-cocking antics.......or is this just MY Christmas!!!
My point is that, if we go along with the ‘commercial’ images of a clean and sparkly baby Jesus, we lose sight of his reality. Jesus didn’t come into the world to fulfil our human ideals and ignore our realities. He was born in a filthy stable, to parents who must have been fraught with worry and unsure of their future, in order to show us the love of a God who isn’t an ideal but rather a true reality and who will guide us through whatever life throws at us.
So, this year, whether your Christmas is warm and cosy or whether it is frazzled, fearful and uncertain, remember that Jesus knows your reality and offers you a love and a hope that no amount of money can buy.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year!
With love - Ginni
MEMORY Memory is a strange thing, isn’t it? I say this following on from a conversation I had with my grown-up children recently where we were reminiscing about family life when they were much younger. I was remembering one particularly difficult winter when I had three children under the age of ten, a husband whose job demanded extremely long hours of him, my own job which required me to work night shifts and the struggle I had to hold on to my sanity! To my mind, it was one of my toughest times and I commented to my children that I wasn’t a particularly good mum then as I was permanently tired and grumpy and that I was always moaning at them. They looked at me as if I was mad!!! “What are you on about, Mum” exclaimed my youngest. “Don’t you remember when we had that massive storm and when you came in from work late at night, we were all awake and crying because of the thunder? You and dad got out all the blankets and sheets in the house, moved all the furniture around in the lounge and made a den downstairs for us to sleep in. Each of us had our own little ‘cave’ and you and dad slept in there with us - it was the best night EVER”!!! There then ensued a very animated conversation about this warren of caves that Colin and I had constructed and it seemed that I was the only one who had viewed it as a last desperate measure to get even a couple of hours sleep before the school run in the morning, even if it did leave the house looking like a tornado had hit! It appears that my desperation had turned me into a hero! The same memory viewed from different perspectives. It reminded me that each of us can only hold on to our own personal recollections of times and events and from them we form opinions which can influence us for the rest of our lives. If, however, we seek out other perspectives on the same story, we can often see things we had previously missed, gain insights that hadn’t occurred to us and have a less narrow view on the events that unfolded. 2 This year, on Sunday 11th November, we mark the centenary of the end of World War 1. One hundred years since the end of the war that was thought to be the war that would end all wars. Of course, there is no one left alive who can recall first-hand the events of that war but their memories, shared and passed on to each generation, endure to remind us of the cost of war and to influence our thoughts and actions in the future. For many of us, we will never have known the horrors of war nor do the younger generations have any relatives to recall the memories first-hand. How then can they hope to understand the bravery, fear, courage and self-sacrifice of the generations before us, especially in a world that increasingly glamorises violence? How can they understand how fortunate we are to live in this country and to empathise with other countries that are in the midst of conflict? If lessons are to be learned, peace to be cherished, repetition avoided then it is vital that this generation remembers and passes on that knowledge. Our history, our past, our memories are important for the sake of our future, for a wider perspective - ‘Lest we Forget’. With love - Ginni