Tag Archives: Advent

Christmas Gifts

What will you give this year?

A lot of us will be caught up in the Christmas hype all around us. We’ll be busy laying in food, putting up decorations and buying gifts. Hopefully the readers of this don’t get sucked in by the hype.

The perfect gift, according to the advertisers at any rate, seems to get more expensive every year but what is the perfect gift? Is there really such a thing?

Most gifts that people receive are simply bought by someone. Often bought quickly without a lot of thought, because shopping for someone else is, let’s face it, inconvenient. Not many people, these days, got to the trouble of making something for someone else.

Gifts don’t need to be expensive. Sometimes, giving an expensive gift is actually a disservice to the recipient. And expensive gift often creates in the receiver a feeling of obligation to respond in kind at a similar cost. Note here I say cost, not value.

Creating an obligation can prompt someone with little money to feel obliged to spend more than they can afford to respond in kind. A thoughtless gift in the first place actually adds to the hardship of the recipient.

Sometimes the best gift is the least expensive or the most thoughtful, perhaps even free in monetary term, is nevertheless of great value. Caring doesn’t have to mean spending, it can mean not spending. Perhaps the most valuable to give someone, is your time. Of course so many people don’t, or say they don’t, have time.

 

Advertisements

The Christmas Interviews: The Guide

The Guide

The 2nd dream, Daniele Crespi, 1620-1630

Reporter: Lastly I  found  the guide Esme suggested I might talk with.

Welcome Shimon. You are a travel guide available for hire, and you have been taken on to lead the astrologer’s caravan?

Shimon: I take work where I can get it. I travel a lot so acting as a guide is one of my lines of work.

Reporter: But I understand you were taken on locally, you have not travelled with them before.

Shimon: Yes that’s right.

Reporter: Do you know why the astrologers hired a guide after arriving at their destination? It’s more usual to have a guide to get to a place.

Shimon: I can’t be sure why but they want a different route out of Israel to the way they came. They have specifically said that they want to avoid Herod’s palace. I was told they stopped there on the way to Bethlehem.

Reporter: And you’ve no idea why they wish to find a different way to return to their home?

Shimon: You must have heard the rumours around here, that Herod is looking for a child. Word has it that the child could take Herod’s throne when he grows. So I’m guessing that the astrologers know something of the child that they don’t want to tell Herod.

Reporter:  Thank you for your time, Shimon.

I wasn’t able to track down the couple with their child, Jesus. The last snippet of information I was able to pick up is that the parents may have taken him out of Israel, possibly making their way to Egypt, lending credence to the story Herod my be searching for them.

If anything new comes to light, we’ll bring it to you first. For now, goodbye.

The Shepherds
The Innkeeper’s Wife
The Wise Men’s Cook

The Christmas Interviews: The Wise Men’s Cook

The Wise Men’s Cook

The Magi Journeying by James Tissot c. 1890

Reporter: It took me a few more days to track down the “well dressed visitors”. They were not from the local area and by the time I found them, they had rejoined their caravan at a camp a little way outside Bethlehem. I wasn’t able to speak with the visitors to the baby personally but I with a little persuasion, a couple of members of their retinue agreed to speak with me.

First Esme, the caravan’s cook. Hello Esme. You’ve been with the caravan for the whole journey I understand?

Esme: Yes, all except when they visited a palace, King Herod’s I think, and here in Bethlehem. We had to camp outside while they went in to the palace and town.

Reporter: I understand your masters came from the East, just to see the child. What can you tell me about them and about the child?

Esme: I’ll tell you what little I can. They’re called Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar. Melchior seems to be senior. They study the stars. Astrologers I think they call themselves, or maybe astronomers I’m not sure.

Reporter: And do you know what brought them to Bethlehem, Esme?

Esme: Mostly it’s just gossip and rumour but they apparently saw a conjunction forming in the stars. They’d predicted that the stars would coalesce over this town. They didn’t know the name of it until they got here, they just followed the stars. They thought it was some kind of portent.

Reporter: Do you know what they found when they arrived?

Esme: Again only gossip. They found a child, low born but they say he’s destined to lead the people, maybe even become a king.

One other thing, they hired a new local guide. You could try talking to him.

Reporter: Thank you for talking with me Esme.

The Shepherds
The Innkeeper’s Wife

The Christmas Interviews: The Innkeepers Wife

The Innkeeper’s Wife

Nativity at Night, by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490.

Reporter: After the shepherds, I followed the story further by trying to speak with the innkeeper where the couple had asked for a room. He was out buying supplies to re-stock after his census guests had left. I was able to talk to his wife.

Hello Helene, thank you for talking with me. When did you realise something out of the ordinary was going on, and what can you tell us about the young couple that stayed in your stable?

Helene: We guessed something was happening when we saw the lights in the sky outside the town. I suppose everyone had probably seen them. Lots came out to look when they heard people shouting about it.

The couple asked my husband for a room but we were already full, because of the census. I couldn’t see them pushed away, she was so heavily with child. I suggested the stable to my husband, at a reduced rate of course.

Reporter: We heard from a shepherd that the baby was born in your stable, and was named Jesus. Can you tell us his parents’ names?

Helene: They were called Mary and Joseph, from Nazareth I think. I felt sorry for her having travelled so far in her condition. He was a carpenter.

Reporter: Was there anything special or out of the ordinary about them?

Helene: I didn’t see anything at the time. Later after the unexpected visit of the shepherds I began to wonder about them.

I took them some fresh water the next morning. It was just an excuse really; I wanted to see the baby. He’s a lovely little chap. There seemed to be an aura of calm and peace about him.

Reporter: You’ve told us about the shepherds, were there any other visitors?

Helene: Lots of people came asking about the couple and their child. They were coming for days after Mary, Joseph and Jesus had left. It was getting annoying.

Was there anyone you particularly noticed amongst the visitors?

Helene: Most were ordinary folks, like you and me. A few oddballs but there was one small group I particularly remember.

Three foreign gentlemen enquired about the young family. Very well dressed, in expensive clothes. They had camels with them. You don’t often see that in Bethlehem. They just watered their camels and bought a few supplies before leaving. I told them that after the young couple left, they’d rented a house somewhere nearby, but I wasn’t sure where.

Reporter:  Thank you Helene.

 

Previous:  The shepherds.

The Christmas Interviews: The Shepherds

The Shepherds.

Adoration of the Shepherds Bartolomé Esteban Murillo c. 1657

Reporter: As the crowds begin to thin, making their way home after Caesar’s census, I followed up a story of lights over a field outside of Bethlehem. Far from being an isolated incident as was first assumed, it led on to a series of connected events. I have tried to piece them together, by interviewing people involved that I have been able to trace.

The description of lights in the sky first led me to a group of shepherds a little way outside the town of Bethlehem, sheltering with their flock for the night.

Hello Jose, thank you for agreeing to tell our readers what you saw. What was it that alerted you that something out of the ordinary was happening?

Jose: It was a brightening of the sky, well before dawn. At first just a bright point of light. Then it grew and took on a human shape. Well almost human except he had wings.

Reporter: Wings! That seems unusual.

Jose: It surprised us but we saw it as clearly as I saw you. We all saw it. It was scary

Reporter: Go on, what happened next?

Jose: The angel said not to be afraid, that he had brought a message from God. He told us that a child, a saviour for us and for everyone had been born, and that we should go to him.

Reporter: Did he say where to find the child.

Jose: Only that we would find the child in a stable. He wasn’t very good with his directions but said we’d find him ok. Then a few moments later, a swarm, if that’s the right word, appeared behind the first angel. They were singing praises to God. Then they all disappeared, just sort of faded away.

Reporter: So did you go to try to find the child?

Jose: After we discussed it yes. We checked on our sheep then went into town. Bethlehem is small, it didn’t take too much asking around to find the stable. It was at the side of an inn.

Reporter: Did you go in? What did you find?

Jose: We found a young couple, with a baby boy, in a manger just like the angel said. He was asleep and his mum looked really tired and we couldn’t leave the sheep for long, so we didn’t stay long. There was something about him. He looked like any other baby but there was a feeling. Calmness, peace. A feeling I won’t forget. He’s called Jesus.

Reporter: And his parents, who are they?

Jose: I never heard. Maybe one of the others knows.

Reporter: Thank you Jose.

Intercession Prayer For Sunday 8th January 2017

The Sunday of Epiphany

God and Father, Hear this prayer offered in the name of your son Jesus christ, for Your world, Your church and for ourselves.

As you guided the wise men to follow a star to Bethlehem, let us by guided by Your Morning Star. Let us be like the light of a star, shining for others to follow in a dark, turbulent world where it is hard to know which way to go unless we are guided by You, our Father.

The wise men followed a single star, out of the unknown number You created. We give thanks for the wonders you have placed in the universe that are beyond our understanding and that remind us that in Your majesty you also are beyond our understanding.

Today (Sunday 8th January 2017) is 1000 days since the schoolgirls from the Nigerian village of Chibock were abducted by the Boko Haram group. We pray for the girls still held captive by Boko Haram, and for those few freed but still under heavy restriction by their own country’s intelligence agency. We pray too for all who are unjustly abducted and held against their will.

We pray to you God for all those affected by flooding in southern Thailand. Comfort and strengthen the friends, family and loved ones of those who have died. Support those who have lost homes and livelihoods and everyone bringing aid and assistance.

As our children and young men and women return to school and education after the Christmas holiday, bless the people who teach, train and educate them. Borrowing a few words from Michele Obama, help them Father to “use that education to build a better” world “worthy of your boundless promise”. May they “lead by example with hope, never fear.

Healer God, send your spirit to the sick and the injured in mind, body or spirit. Comfort, support and strengthen them. We give thanks for the carers, whether professional or friends and family. Medicine may cure ills but true healing comes only from You. We ask for your healing touch on the unwell whoever and wherever they may be, known or unknown to us.

Whether we are well or unwell, we all still carry our cares, concerns and worries. We bring these thoughts and and feelings we hold in our hearts to you, our Father.

The decorations have been taken down and the Nativity sets put away in their boxes. Remind us Father not to put away Jesus in a box until next Christmas, like the nativity sets.

Merciful Father, accept this prayer for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Download and print this prayer.

Perfect Christmas

Is there any such thing?

In all sorts of places people are planning for Christmas, what they think of as the perfect Christmas. Of course the perfect Christmas is different for everyone, unless you are taken in by all the advertisements trying to sell you the ‘perfect’ Christmas.

In our lives we can create routines, build traditions and make plans. We plan even more so at Christmas time. We buy the food for the Christmas dinner, we buy the gifts, often something expensive but thoughtless that is consigned to the bin soon after the festivities are frgotten.

We wonder every year what to buy the relatives that are coming to stay, that we only see a couple of times each year. We prepare the spare room/guest bedroom.

Then on Christmas Eve, or perhaps Christmas morning, the guests, usually family, arrive and the festivities, and the stress of being cooped up with people you don’t usually spend much time with begins. We put on our forced smiles and fake bonhomie assisted by alcohol, pull a few crackers and laugh at the terrible jokes.

Next thing you know, something happens that catches us off guard. An accident or event breaks into our cozy Christmas and throws the plans we spent so long crafting out of the window. Uncle Ted says a wrong word to Dad and an argument breaks out, or maybe someone spills red wine on a light carpet. Our carefully planned and arranged Christmas comes crashing down around our ears as if our Christmas routines were nothing at all. Our ‘perfect’ Christmas is ruined.

But is it ruined, or more to the point should it be through one small, often petty, accident or argument? Do we spend too long working ourselves up, getting stressed out? Are we wearing brave faces, instead of our happy faces.

There is no such thing as a perfect Christmas, at least not the way us flawed humans try to celebrate it, at the same time forgetting what it is we are celebrating.

So, make your plans, buy the food, wrap the presents and cook the dinner. If something upsets the ‘perfection’ why worry, it was never going to be perfect anyway, so eat, drink be merry. Relax and enjoy the day, imperfections and all.