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Friday, 17 December 2010

Many Blessings - Lawrence



There will not be any scheduled postings over the Christmas season as we all become so busy at this time of year. However, there may be some unscheduled writings if members of this blog should feel so moved.

Check in from time to time and see what is here. In any case, there have been many interesting and heart-warming articles over the last couple of weeks that relate to the Christmas season.

We will begin regularly scheduled blogging on this site on January 3rd, 2011. I hope you will rejoin us then.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Happens/MANN

Christmas has many layers for me: Spiritual and physical; relational and reconciling; unions and reunions; giving and receiving—experiencing God’s presence being the most significant of all my presents. I was raised with all the farm trimmings of Christmas: horse and cutter, cutting the tree in the back bush, the black mare drawing it up to the house on a stone boat, setting it up in the ‘front room’ - a place we never used in the winter.

The farm kitchen would smell like Christmas for a week, with the scent of roast goose, dressing, fruit cake and plum pudding. And over several days through the holidays, family and friends would come and go. For me, Christmas is a season rather than a day, so it’s been easy for me through the years to weave a busy church life in with family activities.

As our adult children had their own families, we graduated to having our Christmas Family Dinner early in the month. This way, the grandchildren could stay at home with their new toys on the day. As clergy, I’d visit the local hospital and nursing homes, always aware of the sorrow of separation and loss during this time of the year. I was often reminded of the many lonely people who suffered through the season of Christmas and families who would never gather around a festive dinner table. Remembering the Christmas of my youth, it would not have been uncommon for my mother to fill a few plates with Christmas dinner to share with neighbours.

Houses, through their Christmas decorations or lack of them, are often similar to families in reflecting the good news of the season. This was on my mind as my husband and I recently took possession of a hundred-year-old house in a historic village an hour south of us. Although the farmhouse in which we live is appropriately decorated in traditional century style, I couldn’t help thinking of the quiet, dark house sitting in the midst of a lively, celebrative neighbourhood through this Christmas season. I had shared this concern with several of my friends, but I didn’t do anything about it as the hours in the day were not long enough to spread between two properties.

A few days ago, my husband and I drove to the newly acquired house to do some work. Before he turned the car into the driveway—I saw it. A large green spruce garland looped along the front veranda railing with golden, laced bows at each end and a larger one in the middle. A comparable wreath hung on the front door reflective of the unending circle of God’s love, while drawing attention to the hospitality soon to be evident beyond that door.

Christmas happens in different ways. For in this present from an anonymous friend who knew my heart’s desire, I saw the unmistakeable gift of God’s presence in this act of friendship.

Blessings,
Donna Mann
Aggie’s Storms (2007) Aggie’s Dream (2010) The young years of the first woman elected to The House of Commons, Ottawa.
WinterGrief (2003) A personal response to death
Meadowlane Children’s MP3/PDF based on the Fruit of the Spirit and Virtues present in a child’s life
http://www.donnamann.org http://meadowlane.homestead.com

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

What Child is This at Christmas? -HIRD


By Rev Ed Hird

One of the most favorite Christmas Carols is William Chatterton Dix’s “What Child is This?” At the age of twenty-nine, Dix was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bedrest for several months. He went into a deep depression. Out of this near-death experience, Dix wrote many hymns, including ‘What Child is This?”. Written in 1865, Dix made use of powerful word pictures that still speak one hundred and forty-one years later:

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

What is it about the Christmas story that keeps capturing our hearts year after year? What child is this?

Why does this baby on Mother Mary’s lap win the attention of billions of people every December? Why angels? Why shepherds? What child is this?

One of the strangest things about the Christmas story is the birthplace of the Christmas child in a cattle shed. What kind of place is that to celebrate Christmas? It wasn’t even sanitary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.


There is something about the Christmas Child that will not go away, that cannot be avoided, that is inescapably part of Canadian culture.


What Child is this anyways? William Chatterton Dix’s Carol had this response:

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

What Child is this? Why do wise men still seek him?

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This Christmas, may loving hearts enthrone the Christmas Child. May loving hearts welcome this Child into their homes, their lives, their souls.


The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
http://ststsimonschurch.ca/
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com/
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

Monday, 13 December 2010

We Lost Jesus—den Boer

Every December I’m one of several like-minded people who volunteer to decorate our church. We are ordinary run-of-the-mill, get-it-done, Christmas decorators. We assemble tree, tinsel and garlands according to the patterns and traditions of yesteryear.

The Sunday evening before our scheduled church decorating, I attended a church already decked out for Christmas. In discussion after the service, a church friend noted the taste and style, for instance, how the Christmas decorations at the front of that church didn’t interfere with the musical paraphernalia on the stage. I took this as a challenge.

On Monday morning, the day of our church decorating, I purposed to create something new and beautiful—with no idea how to do this.

At the church, a fellow church decorator and I found the stepladder and brought the tree down from the platform above the back storage room. Up on that platform, I found a red felt banner complete with golden dowels. How Christmas is that? The banner read, “Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life” in white and gold. I handed the banner down to Lynn. But, how to hang it? This was one Looonnnng banner. If I stood on the top rung of our stepladder with Lynn balanced on my shoulders we just might be able to reach high enough. Lynn is quite tall.

We laid the banner out on the stage. I quietly hoped for inspiration.

Next, I took my energy, initiative and creative ability into the crawlspace under the stage where the decorations of Christmas’ past are stored. I examined every box and bag. I pulled out new and old alike. We dragged all these things into the foyer. A pile of brownery crumbled out of one of the older bags. We would vacuum that later.

The tree came first. Our church’s artificial tree looks very real. It stands about ten feet tall. It has to be tied to the coat racks or it will fall down. We know this from experience. We set the tree in the same old corner where the coat rack could hold it up and where it wouldn’t gather attention unduly. After all, a Christmas tree is heathen in origin.

Decorating the tree took longer than expected. First we tested the numerous strings of white and coloured lights. Three strings of coloured lights glowed brightly. Once these were on the tree, the top string stopped glowing. Lynn solved this with a trip to the local hardware store.

By lunch three decorators had the tree half decorated and two of the seven windows in the sanctuary garlanded.

After lunch our crew expanded to five and we finished the tree and the windows and spruced up the foyer.

Time to go home and we hadn’t set up the nativity scene yet. We had the stable, but where were the wise men, the shepherds, Joseph, Mary and Jesus? Where was Jesus?

Marian den Boer is the author of Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Remembering the Manger - Belec

I'm thinking that Jesus would likely upturn a few tables or two if he saw some of the wretched so-called Christmas gift items that might just be found on the shelves of some of our local Stuffmarts.

I receive a newsletter from an organization who does tend to be a little overzealous sometimes about some matters, ecologically speaking. But for the most part, they put out an informative bit of news each day and some of their articles are down right interesting.
Yesterday an article described the top ten terrible toys. Bear in mind that these are marketed towards children.

1. Hannibal Lecter Action Figure - a cannibalistic serial-killer doll.
2. Barbie Little Red Riding Hood complete with fishnet knee-highs, dominatrix stilettos, a micro-mini, a lace-up corset...
3. Shapeshifters Weapon Punisher, which is like a transformer with sexual inuendo
4. Boogaz Pick ‘n’ Flick Launcher
5. Pee and Poo Plush Dolls

I think I will stop here. My stomach turns when I read about such garbage. What kind of people think up these things and who in their right mind would sell [or buy] such trash? Don't people realize that 'garbage in = garbage out?'


Don't get me wrong. I am no prude and I enjoy a laugh more than once a day.
But, God must shake His head and regret the day He gave us free will when He sees such disgusting ways that people try to make their almighty dollar. And they call these Christmas gift suggestions? Bah humbug on that one.

It is beyond me, anyway, why people celebrate Christmas if they do not believe in Jesus. Of course, like I said - the mighty dollar is the impetus. Please God, remind me to do my part to stay off that bandwagon.

There is so much razamataz and hooplah around this time of the year that annoys me, although I really do love Christmas as a celebration. I have to be careful that the soft, joyful cries of the tiny Babe do not get obliterated by the incessant noise and perversions of the reason for the season. I'm trying. I'm trying.

[Keep me focussed, Lord. Remind me to look beyond the tinsel and the trinkets. Help me stand up and state my disgust at things that undermine and bring shame to you, my Heavenly Father.]



Thank goodness, God has a perfect Way to put life into perspective. Remembering the Manger.



Now I feel much better. Now it all makes sense. If we had a perfect world, then God would not have had to send His blessed Son to this earth. Come Lord Jesus, come. [We sure do need You!]

Friday, 10 December 2010

Find God’s cheer – all year - Gibson

Sometimes at Christmas I sense that the lyrics of “Deck the Halls” have changed to “Deck the shops with and ire and folly, na na na na.... Tis the season to be growly, na na na na....”

Even for Christians, Christmas often becomes a lengthy, disappointing list:

Too much commotion, and no peace. Too much eating, and nothing to satisfy inner hunger. Too much glitter, and very little graciousness. Too much activity, but scant purpose. Too much living and no real life.

The list drones on: Too much talk, but nothing to say. Too much church, and not enough worship. Too many people, but precious little fellowship. Too much laughter, but no lasting joy.

Saddest of all? Too many gifts, and no Divine presence.

In a crowded parking lot just before Christmas a few years ago, I maneuvered my car between two others. As I opened my door, it lightly tapped the side of the older vehicle next to me—my first mistake.

A quick inspection revealed no damage, so I began walking away—fast, trying to escape the bitter prairie wind. My second mistake.

A harsh voice exploded behind me. “Yeah, right, you (bleepety, bleeped bleep). Just walk away. See if I care. Ya just wrecked the side of my car, ya know.”

My mind had already jumped to my mission inside the warmth of the store. It took a second to even hear the voice, and another to realize that it came from the car parked next to mine. Turning, I saw a middle-aged woman slouched in the driver’s seat. I hadn’t noticed her before. Horrified, I turned around and walked back. Mistake number three.

“Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I did tap your car, but there’s no damage,” I said. “Look for yourself. But please forgive me—I would have said something if I’d noticed you sit...”

She didn’t let me finish. Her window was down, and her ire was up.

“Yeah. (Bleepedy) right ‘ya checked it, ya (bleepety bleeped bleep). She followed that colorful verbal barrage with energetic obscene gestures and even greater flapping of her tongue.

Well, okay then.

Realizing that her diatribe was likely less about her car than her life, I didn’t make mistake number four. Trying to reason with a fool makes two fools, usually, so I simply turned and walked away, thinking, “Christmas clearly hasn’t made her jolly!”

In fact, Christmas can’t make anyone jolly, even Christians. At least not for long. If you’re not happy at the beginning of December, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find joy under the tree on December 25, and definitely not at Boxing Day sales, no matter how deeply discounted that new iPhone is.

Lasting joy doesn’t spring up like a jack-in-the-box. It blooms by intentionally nurturing Christ’s spirit within, by daily opening the gift of Divine Presence, and by living life determined, above all else, to please God—year round.

God’s cheer as you prepare to celebrate Christ. Tis the season to be holy...Ha la la la la, la le- liua!

****
Sunny Side Up, Kathleen Gibson's weekly faith and life newspaper column, is also posted at www.kathleengibson.ca/sunnysideup

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Celebration - Atchison

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a celebration of family togetherness. We celebrate giving and receiving, extending joy, and feeling happiness.

While the celebration of the birth of Jesus should be the main event, it is becoming less important within the busy holiday season. It becomes the simple act of going to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Other priorities of purchasing and wrapping presents, visiting Santa, attending parties and social events, making family arrangements and preparing fancy meals and treats becomes what we focus on most.

Most people are lucky at Christmas to have family to celebrate the holidays with, to visit, and spend time with. For others, their family members may be too far away and it is impossible for them to be together. Some folks don’t have much family left or are estranged. Christmas becomes a time where we reflect on family and what our families mean to us.

The best part about Christmas celebrations is that people (and organizations) open their hearts and homes so that even if someone is alone, invitations are extended and those who are not as fortunate have a place to go for Christmas and are welcomed.

The celebration of Christmas for some is to give. Children love to receive their presents from Santa and also learn what giving means as they too prepare for the celebration of Christmas. It is the unexpected gifts we receive, whether it is a simple handshake or hug from someone whose respect we dearly seek, or the friendly smile from someone who brightens our day when things just aren’t going right.

We extend joy throughout Christmas by doing little things for others and sharing the joy of the holiday season by being a little bit more patient and helpful with each other. It is the time of year where people love to do for others and do receive joy from simple acts of giving.

Christmas has different meaning for all individuals, whether they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ or not. Christmas is still a spiritual holiday. God has helped us with this by helping us to help others during this holiday season. Whether we embrace Christmas or not, we do find ways of celebrating it one way or another, of giving and accepting gifts of the heart, extending joy and perhaps finding a little happiness in an otherwise very hectic time.

Patricia L. Atchison
Website: www.patriciaatchison.ca
Writing & Publishing Blog: www.aboutwritingandpublishing.com

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Do Not Be Afraid — Martin

There’s no season like Advent and Christmas that has inspired so much music. Glen Soderholm’s new Christmas CD is a fine collection, within the best of that tradition.

Most of the songs are not well-known standards. Some are Glen’s originals, and others come from fine Canadian Christian songwriters such as Tim Alberts (“Shine”), and Carolyn Arends (“Do Not Be Afraid”). You’ll also hear Glen’s version of “This Christmas” — the song he co-wrote with Jacob Moon, which Jacob recorded as the title track for his own Christmas CD in 2007.

One of my favourite cuts is “Song of The Magi” from American songstress Anais Mitchell. It includes both the traditional images of the wise men, plus a vision of present-day Bethlehem:
-----------“Welcome home my child
-----------your home is a checkpoint now
-----------your home is a border town
-----------welcome to the brawl
-----------life ain’t fair my child
-----------put your hands in the air my child
-----------slowly now single file now
-----------up against the wall...”

Of course Soderholm has recorded a few traditional carols — “Angels From the Realms of Glory”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”— though he alters the musical phrasing in places, or adds his own bridge to freshen up what could otherwise be considered too familiar. A less-known carol, “People Look East” is another interesting addition.

I think that for Glen this has been an on-again-off-again project, for he released two of the songs from Do Not Be Afraid on his excellent 2008 album This Bright Sadness. He probably should have either saved them for this release, or should have re-recorded them with a different arrangement for this CD. As much as I like them, I often click the skip button, since I listen to them regularly on the other album.

If you enjoy intelligent music — particularly acoustic-based songs, smoothly delivered — Glen Soderholm’s Do Not Be Afraid will make an ideal addition to your Advent, Nativity and Epiphany celebrations.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Promise of Christmas - M. Laycock

Chaos reigned supreme. That’s how it seemed as we rehearsed our Christmas play. The first rehearsal didn’t really happen. The second one was only a bit better, and three quarters of the cast didn’t make it to the third. Those of us who were supposedly “in control” wondered if we were going to have a play at all.

That was nothing new. Every year it seems to happen. Kids run helter-skelter, some don’t show up, some can’t find costumes or those made for them don’t fit. The choir director is tearing her hair out This year seemed a bit more chaotic than usual. But somehow it all came together in the end. The night of the performance seemed to go well. I say seemed, because I was too busy trying to keep my “cast” quiet and focused, to notice if the play was working. One of the magi discovered he could use one of the shepherd’s headbands as a slingshot to wing the beads off his crown clear across the front of the church. That delighted the kids in the front row who dashed out to pick them up. Mary couldn’t stop squirming because her costume was made of wool, and Joseph kept changing his mind about which robe fit best – right up until he walked out onto the ‘stage.’

I wasn’t sure it had really all come together until the audience stood to applaud at the end. When many congratulated us on a job well done, all I could say was, “It’s a miracle!”

And that’s the promise of Christmas – it all comes together in the end. I’m sure the followers of Jesus, watching the drama of His life and death, felt the same way we ‘directors’ did. To those who thought they were in control, it looked like chaos reigned. From the moment of His birth, He and His parents had to run from those who wanted to kill Him. As He performed miracles, religious leaders plotted against Him. Even the disciples themselves didn’t understand His message. They were disappointed that He didn’t chase the Romans out of the country; He never did set up an earthly kingdom. Then, the cross. It looked like everything they tried to accomplish was doomed to fail. But in the end ...

In the end, the stone was rolled away. The baby born in a stable and crucified on a cross was raised glorified, to the glory of His Father.

And there is another promise yet to unfold. As the birth of Christ is overshadowed by the cross, which was blasted away by his resurrection, even that will be outdone by His return. One day, God has told us, “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength’.” (Isaiah 45:23,24)

It will be a miracle and it really will all come together in the end.


To read more of Marcia's work or to book her for a speaking engagement, visit www.vinemarc.com

Monday, 6 December 2010

Don't break that chain - Nesdoly

I am the writer of our family’s annual Christmas letter. I have, in my "Christmas" file, a copy of each one I’ve written! One of these years (maybe this one) I’ll make a photocopy of each and compile scrapbooks for my now-adult kids. But before I indulge in that luxury, I’ve set myself the task of writing this year’s letter.

For me the hardest part of composing this yearly newsletter is getting started. To help me with that I usually reread past versions to see how I’ve done it before. And so on Friday, I hauled out the Christmas file and flipped through this family history-in-letters.

The first thing that hit me was how technology has changed things. The earliest letters were handwritten on lined notepaper. A couple of years after that I designed letters that folded into cards with calligraphy or pen-and-ink drawings on the front. I painstakingly printed the artwork and the letter itself on parchment paper those years to keep the ink from fuzzing, as it did if I used bond. Then I photocopied them.

In 1990 I must have hauled out my old manual Olympus to do the Christmas letter - because it definitely has the typewriter look (white-out and all). Then in 1991 I used a borrowed word processor. Finally in 1992 I got a computer which I’ve used till the present, printing the letters on a variety of Christmas stationary.

In addition to mirroring advances in technology, a bit of the history of the times comes through these letters too. For example the 1990 letter begins:
In only a few more weeks 1990 will be history. It has truly been an amazing year in our world, with the unexpected toppling of much of the Eastern Bloc, the sudden flare-up in the Middle East and looming uncertainties throughout our country as befuddled politicians tackle one brush fire after another...

(My goodness, that last bit could be a description of Canadian politics any year!)

In 1997 a mail strike was pending and that year’s letter started out:
To write or not to write that is the question,
Whether the mail will move we do not know
But when it comes to friends, e’en the suggestion
That we’d forget them’s answered with a ‘No!'

And a year later, as email became the favorite mode of communication for me, I jingled:
Email would be faster
a visit even better,
but as tradition would dictate,
from us a Christmas letter....

The most favorite part of rereading these letters, though, is reliving times with the kids. Here are a few favorite bits.

From the 1990 letter when B. had just turned five:
...This is a conversation we overheard between him and a little boy in the next seat on the ferry this summer. They were watching some object in the sky.

Little Boy: ...maybe it will go as high as Santa Claus.

B.: Santa Claus is a sham

Little Boy: (silence)

B: Do you know what a "sham" is? It’s a fake.

We nervously glanced at the little boy’s parents and were
relieved when the two boys started talking about something else.

(Though Santa was never part of our Christmas tradition, we did not coach our kids to dash other kids' illusions about Father Christmas - honestly.)

And from that same letter:
S’s comeback to B’s endless knock-knock jokes:

B.: Knock-knock

S.: This is a recording. There is nobody home.

Finally, from the 1993 letter, when S. was 10 and not the keenest pianist:
...I brought some dispute between the children re: piano practice times to Ernie, our resident mediator and after he suggested a solution to the problem, he declared, "I’m as good as Solomon," at which point I heard S. mutter, "Yeah, cut the piano in half!"

Alas, reading all these old letters brings me no closer to starting this year’s. But I’ll think of a way to begin it in due course. Because I wouldn’t want to break this letter chain– which already spans 20 years!

*****************


I first posted this on my blog in late November 2005. That year I did get around to putting together a collection of letters for the kids. I made color copies of each, slipped them into plastic protective sheets, printed a photo collage cover, put the works into D-ring binders and called the project "Our Story in Letters."


So take up that pen or head over to that keyboard to write your annual Christmas letter. After all, you're writing much more than a letter - you're writing history.


Website: www.violetnesdoly.com

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

How Quickly Life Can Change - Lawrence


On October 27th, 2010, I wrote in my daily journal as usual. On October 28th, I wrote the date and nothing more. That same day, I was admitted to hospital and there I stayed for two weeks, at first, not knowing whether I would live or die and, to tell the truth, not caring much either way.

Only a few days before that, I had been so excited about my new manuscript, Highway of Holiness: Soul Journey, being accepted by a publisher from the U.S.A. and had arranged to have the manuscript completed for typesetting at the end of December 2010. Suddenly, I had no energy to think about the manuscript never mind care whether I completed it or not.

Gradually, I am gaining strength, some days, I have more than others. I have to learn to pace myself and realize that God's time may not be the same as mine. I am trying to figure out what it is that God wants to teach me through this unexpected time of illness; as yet, I do not know.

I am grateful to my publisher for giving me an extension on my deadline and, I pray, that I will come closer to God through my everyday happenings.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Thoughts on Advent and Christmas - Reynolds


Every Advent season I find myself not quite in tune with the current liturgical fashion. Here I put my thoughts down on paper and present them now for any response you might be willing to give. This just seems like a good place for theological discussion!

Advent traditionally signifies the beginning of the new year of the Christian calendar, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent is for me a time of joyous expectation. The somber sounds of judgment in the message of John the Baptist are for another time, such as Lent when we remember our sin and the sin of the world. Advent is a time to celebrate the wondrous love and incredible grace of God who came among us as a humble babe born in a stable.

The “joyous expectation” is not restricted to the four weeks leading up to Christmas but is an element of faith all year which only intensifies as Christmas approaches. For those of us who believe that faith is lived as much in kairos as chronos, as much "God’s time" as "clock time," expectation and fulfillment blur together -- the already and the not-yet. "The Season of Christmas" does not begin on December 25th (or the evening of December 24th) as some liturgical literalists would have us believe. It begins with the faith and hope given by the Incarnation of God in Christ which is what Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, is meant to signify. Some of us are like little children, ready for Christmas anytime of year!

That of course does not mean instant satisfaction. Fulfillment is still to come. Rebel against liturgical literalism that I am, I still don’t like to sing "Silent Night" until Christmas Eve. But many of the traditional Advent hymns are so dreary, the words talking of judgment and destruction, and the tunes are positively droney. I long to sing songs of joy and hope in anticipation of Christmas. In other words, I want to start singing some of the "Christmas carols" during the Sundays of Advent.

It may be that the Second Advent is mentioned in the New Testament eight times for each mention of the First Advent, but at this season I just want to remember the First Advent -- that Christ has come. I’ll spend from Pentecost to "Christ the King" concentrating on and working toward the Second Advent, but in the weeks leading up to and immediately following Christmas, I want to concentrate on the First Advent, that Christ has come, that God is not just in heaven but on earth, and ultimately all will be well.

And so my colour for Advent, the Season of Christmas, is red -- bold, bright red. Blue is for the blues. Purple for the time of Lent, whose lengthening days give me the courage to repent. But for Advent, it’s red! Red bows upon the evergreen. Red candles in the “Advent wreath,” while at its centre the great white Christ candle stands in wait. Red wine with the bread on the table, reminding us that even the Crucifixion is triumph. (Blue is indeed my favourite colour, but the designation of blue for Mary the mother of Jesus came out of the Counter Reformation and the Spanish Inquisition. That’s enough to turn me off.)

So call me the Red Rebel, or Reynolds the Red, or whatever you like. Whatever the liturgical fad (remember the letters stand for "For A Day"), I will start to get in the spirit of Christmas about the same time the stores bring out the Christmas stuff and start playing the carols. And horrible as the Musak may sound, and atrocious as the "stuff" may be (Cabbage Patch dolls or Talking Elmo or Burping Barby), I rejoice that even in the Godless commercial world, the birth of the Saviour of the world, the Lord of life, is recognized and celebrated. Surely it gives the rest of us a chance to show the world something of the real meaning of Christmas, that the true "Spirit of Christmas" is the Spirit of God, even the Spirit of agape Love revealed to us in life of the babe born in Bethlehem.