27.12.02

Lovely day with family and friends yesterday. Beautiful rain almost all day was an added blessing. The day was very relaxed. Lots of finger food, lots of different types of drinks. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves immensely right down to Victoria, 5 months. She just stared and smiled and made excited noises whenever anyone spoke to her. I am much blessed in my family and friends.

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Looks as if the fourth cricket test will go the same way as the first three. Australia are 3/356 in their first innings. The earlier tests were finished in three days instead of the five allowed. It would be nice if the Australians had to fight a bit, but that doesn't look like happening. In spite of my earlier post querying the competitive spirit and "win at all costs," I do like being on the winning side. I was asking the question of myself as much as of any readers.

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26.12.02

The fourth cricket Test against England starts today in Melbourne. Australia has won the first three, having basically whitewashed the opposition. Now they hope to make a clean sweep of the last two matches. I am proud of my country's sporting prowess and bothered at the same time. For a small nation, we have a great record. However, there is an intense desire to win and scapegoats sought for any losses. After all, if someone wins, there also has to be a loser. Losing can be ugly for some supporters.

All through the Bible, it is obvious that God is on the loser's side. The downtrodden and oppressed are his especial concern. I'm not suggesting that the losing sporting team is in the same league as those dispossessed and down trodden. What I do query is the attitude of most of us, which suggests that winning is everything.

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A happy Christmas to all in the northern hemisphere. It's the day after here, and I am preparing for our family gathering at my eldest son's house. After all my spiel yesterday about heat, we had a very mild day, about 25 degrees. Today will be mild too with an expected maximum of only about 27 degrees.

Today's gathering will be tinged with sadness. My brither will be unable to attend as he is not long out of hospital after an operation for prostate cancer. An almost perpendicular drive to climb and then another 25 steps is beyond him at the moment. His wife has advanced liver cancer and also will not be there. That means my nephew who is just ten is unable to come too. His mum is convinced she has been cured by a naturopath in Parramatta, but refuses tests to prove it. She is extremely tired and looks bad, with very sallow skin. I would love to think she is cured, but somehow I doubt it. She was critically ill this time last year with bowel cancer which she had ignored till it was almost too late. Now it has spread and oncologist says nothing can help. I believe in prayer and in God's healing, but she will have nothing to do with this. Instead, for an intelligent woman, she is much decieved. Very much into New Age beliefs and practices, even though she has had some nasty experiences which terrified her. She has several degrees including a Master's in Law and an MBA but has been thoroughly deluded. I feel so sad for her, my brother and little Edward who has just turned 10. He was born when she ws 40.

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24.12.02

** The North Wind **



The north wind is tossing the leaves
the red dust is over the town
The sparrows are under the eaves
And the grass in the paddock is brown
As we lift up our voices and sing
To the Christ child the heavenly king.

The tree ferns in green gullies sway
the cool stream flows silently by
the joy bells are greeting the day
And the chimes are adrift in the sky
As we lift up our voices and sing
To the Christ child the heavenly king.

© Bill James (WG) and John Wheeler 1948

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** Carol Of The Birds **


Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
Lifting their feet like war horses prancing
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing

Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day

Down where the tree ferns grow by the river
There where the waters sparkle and quiver
Deep in the gullies bell birds are chiming
Softly and sweetly their lyric notes rhyming

Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day

Friar birds sip the nectar of flowers
Currawongs chant in wattle tree bowers
In the blue ranges lorikeets calling
Carols of bushbirds are rising and falling

Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day


© Bill James (WG) and John Wheeler 1948

An Aussie Christmas
The carol above is one of several written by James and the composer, John Wheeler. Unfortunately, not too many Australians know them. I'll try to post the others later.

I came home today past a place decorated for Christmas. Even leaving aside the many figures and pictures of Santa Claus, the whole thing was incongruous. Large amounts of cotton wool were used to resemble snow and pine trees , or pictures of them, were numerous. Children skated on icy ponds and well rugged carollers braved the snow.

Christmas in Australia is just not like that, even in Hobart where snow at that time of the year has happened on the mountains at the back of Hobart. Christmas in Australia is HOT, often reaching around 40 degrees Celsius in Sydney. Glare from the snow is replaced by the glare from the sand where many people have a picnic lunch at the beach. Others picnic under tres by a creek or river. Some still eat a full on, hot dinner - turkey, roast potatoes and other vegetables and hot pudding. A real hangover from the traditions brought by early immigrants.

My family has a very quiet Christmas Day. Some of us attend church in the morning, although a couple of years ago, I also went to the midnight service at the Anglican Cathedral in Parramatta. It was the fourth Christmas Eve service that day, and was absolutely packed.

Traditional lunch at my place is cold. I decided long ago that I wasn't going to cook in such hot weather. We are having tomorrow, prawns in some Asian style dish as an entree, cold chicken with a rich curry and mango sauce with cashew nuts, and mini pavlova nests with lychees and blueberries and cherries with cream. My sons expect this dish at christmas, although they are not eating with us tomorrow. Seafood is a big thing here for lunch. I have prawns and would like lobster if the budget stretched that far, which it doesn't. whole baked fish is also popular. I'll also have varied salads.

My family's lunch as a group is held on Boxing Day. We started this tradition many years ago when pressure from in-law type conflicts arose. Now we all know to keep Boxing Day apart. It is more of a family thing than a Christmas celebration. we tend to make more fuss of individual birthdays. This movable feast used to rotate around the family. It now seems to have come to rest at my son's. He has a large house which is fully airconditioned, a blessing in the heat, and lots of cooking facilities. Each year, we draw names from a hat, and one person gives a present to one other person. The little ones get presents from everybody.

Last year was spent by many of us looking anxiously down the bushy valley opposite his house. It was the beginning of the disastrous bushfire season around Sydney and we could smell the distinctive smoke of a bushfire being brought to us by a strong dry wind. Fortunately, nothing happened, but we could see the fire in the distance.

When the boys were small, we used to go caming at this time of the year. There is a particular aroma associated with the Australian bush in the summer. It is a mix of the leaf litter on the ground which has come from the native flora and the oil from the gum trees. It is distinctive and I only have to have a slight whiff of this to be transported in my mind to the bush near a beach. Christmas time is traditionally holiday time for Australian families. School is closed from a week before Christmas to the end of January, the longest break in the year. Traffic becomes light as people are on holidays, although part of the holiday is always sitting in a traffic jam on one of the roads out of Sydney.

Our nation is only nominally Christian. Many celebrate the season without any knowledge of Christ or his birth. We are a multicultural country and that too has broken down many "Christian" traditions for Christmas.Carols in the Domain which in Sydney was attended by over 100,000 people last Saturday night has become increasingly secular, unfortunately. Many are caught up in a frenzy of buying, both food and presents. What a shame! The real gift of Christmas is God's grace to us, showing itself in the Incarnation, when the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us.

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22.12.02

I was watching the cricket between Australia and Sri Lanka today when I heard an interesting comment. The batsman appeared to be out but did not leave the crease, waiting instead for the umpire's decision which was "not out." The commentators discussed the issue and said that many people, particularly women had raised this issue. If the batsman knows he is really out, why wait at the crease in case he is given not out? Why not walk immediately? The batsman knew he should go. The commentators basically agreed that sometimes a batsman was given out incorrectly. If he waited to hear the verdict, the decisions generally evened out. Some would be wrong and he should have gone. Some would be wrong and he would stay. Not a word was said about the ethics of staying when he knew he was really out and this was from the game which gave the cry, "Play up and play the game."

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O Bride of Christ, rejoice!
Exultant raise thy voice
To hail the day of glory,
Foretold in sacred story.

Refrain

Hosanna, praise and glory,
Our King, we bow before Thee.

Let shouts of gladness rise
Triumphant to the skies.
Here comes the King most glorious
To reign o’er all victorious

Refrain

He wears no kingly crown
Yet as a king He’s known;
Though not arrayed in splendor,
He still makes death surrender.

Refrain

Thy heart now open wide,
Bid Christ with thee abide;
He graciously will hear thee,
And be forever near thee.

Refrain

E’en babes with one accord
With thee shall praise the Lord,
And every gentile nation
Respond with exultation.

Refrain

This is a Danish hymn from probably the 16th century. Translated into Swedish in the early 17th century, but the English translator is unknown.

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