cancel Christmas, bah humbug!

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’
on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of
holly through his heart. He should!”

Ebeneezer Scrooge


(Alistair Sim as Scrooge)

So I’m currently up to my elbows in bubble wrap…as we continue the overwhelming task of
packing up the house for a move in mid-January.

But despite my current state of distraction, I have managed to hear, read and see the growing
crescendo of rumblings being offered up by various governmental leadership, on both sides of the pond,
all talking about “canceling” Christmas.

Canceling Christmas?

Hummmmm…

Well it seems that I am not the only one who has heard of these latest
COVID restrictions being mulled over by the various politicians both far and near.

Mandated—-

There shall be no collective gatherings—or so they say.

No family get-togethers.
No Midnight mass.
No live nativities.
No shared meals.
No singing.
No caroling.
No parties.
No worship.

So instead of mistletoe and Christmas pageants, there are to be fines, warrants,
and arrests for anyone choosing to defy the Draconian proclamations.
Woe be unto anyone who wants to live out a life full of the depth of holiday cheer
and Christian Joy.

It seems that our friend the Wee Flea, the Pastor David Roberston, hailing
these days from the land down under, has written his latest post about this very notion–
the idea of canceling Christmas.

David even offered up a bit of a history lesson—
Did you know that Christmas was once actually illegal in England?…

“After all was it not Cromwell who banned Christmas?
Not quite…

On 19 December 1643, the English Parliament passed a law encouraging its citizens to treat
the mid-winter period ‘with the more solemn humiliation because it may call to
remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast,
pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him,
by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights’.
From then until 1660, Christmas was actually illegal in England.
In Scotland we banned it from 1640 until 1686.
In fact Christmas was not a public holiday in Scotland until 1958 (unlike New Year) –
Boxing Day in 1974.
We can’t blame Cromwell for that.

I have grown to love Christmas as a great time to reflect upon the incarnation
and to communicate the Gospel.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see –
hail the incarnate Deity.
Yet I also loathe the commercialism, excess and
‘carnal and sensual delights’. Excessive drunkenness,
as well as the declining popularity of the church,
meant that the tradition of midnight Christmas carols, was already becoming less.
Who knows, but Covid may have killed it off?
In St Peter’s in Dundee I introduced a carol service and a Christmas day service –
both were great opportunities for outreach and fellowship.
I suspect McCheyne would not have approved.

But what about this year?
In Sydney, we are debating about whether we can go ahead with outdoor carol services
and get over the ridiculous ban on singing.
In the UK and the US, I suspect the Covid hysteria will be ongoing and
just when they need some Christmas cheer they will be reduced to what
the Scottish Government is calling a ‘digital Christmas’.
It won’t be long before the daily message from politicians includes the
sickly message that Santa is not banned.

But perhaps we can give a different message?
Perhaps churches can ‘reset’ so that we turn Christmas to what it should be –
a celebration of the incarnate God. At a time when churches are being urged
to be less incarnational we can proclaim the one who did not come ‘digitally’,
nor did he die or rise ‘spiritually’.
He came in the flesh.
Pleased as man with man to dwell.
A real baby, with real tears (crying he did make),
in a real world where an unknown number of baby boys were killed in an attempt to get him.
Real angels…real shepherds….a real star…and real glory.
In a world that is governed by misery and fear, we can bring
‘good news of great joy for all the people’.

We should be singing like the angels in the public square…
we should be proclaiming Christ from the rooftops, in our pulpits
and on our digital platforms.
We should be looking at creative ways to engage church,
children and community with the Gospel.
Perhaps some will not be permitted to bring people to church –
but is there any reason why we cannot go out –
by whatever means possible – and, like the angels, take the good news of
‘glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men on whom his favour rests’?
Instead of churches seeing Christmas as an exhausting burden of endless services,
perhaps we can find a more sustainable way to use this
time to proclaim and glorify Christ.
Maybe even Cromwell would approve of that.

Have Yourself A Merry Cromwellian Christmas – AP

And so I now think about Christmas.

I think about the secular vs the spiritual of Christmas.

I think about what it means to keep Christmas in our hearts.

And so, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all;
God bless us, every one!”

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me,
the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience
as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever.
Amen.

Timothy 1:15-17

Yes, God bless us each and everyone!!!

the other story…

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
for each to see the other whole against the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke


(historic marker for the Duelist’s Grave / The Colonial Cemetary,
Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s a street I’ll usually cut through when I’m driving home from town.
It’s a street that my husband isn’t always keen that I take.
Not that he worries about my safety in doing so…it’s just that he thinks it
a bit seedy.
And lord knows should my car suddenly quit working…then where would I be?!

I suppose in seedyville.

And this is when my eyes roll at such a thought as I remind him I’d simply be in the same
town I’ve now called home for nearly 40 years…no worries.

It’s not necessarily a bad street in a bad part of town, but it does have its share of
what some might call a few folks who are ‘rough around the collar.’
A mixed sort of neighborhood to be sure.

But having taught school in our community for over 30 years,
I figure I know or have known all the kids from every side of town…
the upside, downside and in between side…so it really doesn’t bother me.
Many are now very much grown and I no longer recognize their faces but they know me…
so if I’m ever stranded in or around town, someone I once knew will most likely
know me now.

When I first started teaching, it was the “westside” of our town that was more or less
the more infamous part of town.
My kids (aka students) who lived in that part of town would ask if I’d ever been there…
and of course, I’d tell them yes as I had actually given ‘so and so’ a ride home.
They would in turn quickly chastize me, telling me not to go after dark.

It’s a shame that we have such sections of our towns and communities…
but the fact of the matter is that we do–as every city and town seems to have its fair
share of places one should be cautious about traveling through.

So on this particular cut through street of mine, sits an old house that looks a bit
piecemealed together…
as in it started out as a single story wooden framed home when at some point or other,
an upper story was oddly added with an open deck that makes me think “old Florida”…
as in the older type of houses built near the ocean back in the day, long before there were
multimillion dollar McMansions and highrise condos.
More bungalow than house.

The yard around the house is pretty rough looking, cluttered and littered with both weeds
and junk.
The upstairs deck is covered with what must be 50 birdhouses of various sizes, shapes
and descriptions.
Plus in bold black letters, on the front of this mishmashed house, are the words
“The other story”
Which is another throwback to those old beach bungalows when folks would name their cottages…

The other side of the story…
As in this fellow who lives here, and I say fellow because this place screams of a
curmudgeonie sort of person that calls this place “home”…maybe its the broken down lawnmower
and all it’s scattered parts…but no matter, it seems that this fellow has his own side to
some sort of story.

All of which has reminded me of something I recently read…
It reminded me of a different sort of ‘the other story’…or maybe it reminded
me of what is actually the real story…

I read that there are actually two Christmases…
Two different Christmases both rolled one into the other.

There is, of course, the Christmas of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, giving Tuesdays,
Santa at the mall, presents, mistletoe and all that speaks of secularism and consumerism.

And then on the flip side, there is the ‘other’ Christmas.

The Christmas of Christ’s Mass…the birth of the savior.

The latter, however, is deeply overshadowed by the former…and it seems that it is
overshadowed more and more each year with what seems to be a concerted effort to actually
drown it out forever.

But it is that other story, that other Christmas story that is actually the real
and only story.

Because it is the original story
The original Christmas.

The story being that of salvation.
The story of, a once long-ago time, when Hope was returned to earth…
in the form of a baby.

An amazing story really.

Not so much a story about mistletoe, or shopping til you drop, or of presents or
of cyber this or that but rather a story of unconditional love made manifest.

There’s always another side to every story…and I for one certainly prefer this other Christmas
story to that more modern version of this sacred story…

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas
and so few stop to inquire into its meaning,
but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human
habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

A.W.Tozer

Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate his coming by making peace impossible
for six weeks of each year…
He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them.

A.W. Tozer

On the first day of Christmas….blah, blah, blah…..

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
a drunk opossum in a box!”

Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge


(mother’s late circa 1950’s mistletoe ball / Julie Cook / 2017)

See this garish, yet oh so festive green, red and white bedecked ball of plastic??

This ball of plastic, aka mistletoe, has been a part of every Christmas of mine since
I began having the capacity to actually remember memories…..

Every year, sometime in December, Mother would haul down the boxes of Christmas
ornaments and lights from our attic.
Down came the stuffed Coca Cola Santa who would sit on the fireplace hearth.
Down came our stockings knitted by my aunt.
Down came all manner of bauble and ball.

The wooden beamed, insulated tomb which housed our poor ornaments,
as they would spend 11 months out of the year, was
in this wizened sense of hindsight,
a really dumb place to keep real keepsakes….

You know how hot it gets in Georgia in the summers right??

So is it any wonder as to why those festive little dough ornaments
we made in kindergarten didn’t much survive past grade school…???
all before succumbing to the elements and reverting back to their powdery,
albeit now colorful, days of floury finery….???

Mother would pull down that wooden drop down hatch in the middle of our
hallway ceiling, the one with the sad little raveling cord and the plastic knob
at the end, as she’d precariously jiggle the pull down rickety wooden ladder
attached to said little pull down hatch, as I was instructed to hold the ladder
very still while she maneuvered boxes both up and down.

I now marvel at how Mother never fell and broke her neck.

Ceremoniously Mother would pull down this and that box…
She’d survey the contents determining the survivors and discarding the broken.

And each year she’d head to the kitchen in order to literally tack up that
plastic ball of mistletoe over our back door,
as in with a thumb tack in the door frame.

I always imagined being kissed under that mistletoe…
because isn’t that what you’re suppose to do when you happen past a boy
under some mistletoe…????
You get kissed by someone magical and special under that mistletoe???

And I always wanted it to be someone other than my dad’s peck on the cheek
each evening when he’d return home from work throughout the holidays….

I wanted a kiss, a real kiss from a real boy…one day…much like something Prince
Charming might offer….
Yet what I knew of real kisses back then, eludes me now… but I
certainly thought it was something every young girl would dream of…..

Fast forward about 50 years….

So there I was Sunday night, unpacking our own boxes of Christmas treasures
and memories, most of which oddly spend their 11 months out of the year in a very
hot Georgia attic (as some lessons are hard learned)… when low and behold,
what did my wandering eyes behold….but that same ball of mistletoe with
Mother’s tack still stuck on the strand.

Proudly holding up my childhood relic as if it were some trophy fish dangling from
a stringer, I call for my husband to see my prize….
to see if he remembered where my plastic treasure came from and as to its
magical importance….

As I was all ready for my sentimental walk down memory lane,
full of a cherished warm glow from recalling those oh so happy days gone by,
all the while anticipating that long awaited kiss from my very own prince charming…

He looks over in my direction, away from the football game, then practically screams—-
“OH MY GOSH!!
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T SEND THAT WITH ME TO THE STORE….CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT CRIES IF I HUNG THAT UP IN THE STORE?????????!!!!!!!!!

And so goes another cherished memory right out the window….gone to our overtly and
off its freaking rocker society….

Sigh…..

And so on that note…I figured since we’ve all probably been taking ourselves just
a wee bit too seriously as of late—-
I wanted to share a story I read yesterday out of the News….
a story coming out of Fort Walton, FL….

It seems that a possum…of which you must know I do find cute and always have, as
I hold a soft spot open in my heart for these poster children of all things
roadkill ever since I can remember….

It seems a possum found its way into a Liquor store in Fort Walton.
Or actually found its way into the ceiling of the building.
Yet it appears that this possum fell out of the ceiling….
Falling onto some bottles of whiskey—of which broke.

When the proprietor of the store opened up the following morning,
imagine the surprise of finding a staggering, foaming at the mouth and
obviously very drunk….possum…
a possum who just so happened to have lapped up all that spilt liquor.

So the kind and caring folks from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge had to come get
the staggering and very sloppy drunk marsupial.
They in turn had to give the sot possum a bag of IV fluids to flush the alcohol from its system.

Once the hangover had passed and the possum had sobered up,
it was released back into the woods…as it was heard to exclaim,
before it went out of sight…
Merry Christmas to all and to all no more bourbon tonight!!!!

http://www.fox13news.com/news/florida-opossum-found-drunk-after-liquor-store-break-in#/

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy,
all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11