26.12.03

It's Boxing Day here and we have our big family gathering today. I think it's a BBQ as well as cold meats and salads. The family draws names from a hat and we each buy a present for one person, although are free to give to others if we wish. All the littlies get presents from evryone. Only some of us are christians and we have found it easier to have this today rather than on Christmas Day itself.

The gathering started out quite small with just immediate family. Over the years, it has grown as in-laws were added. Now my daughters-in-law often bring their families and we have also added friends who have no immediate, nearby family. Rather than everyone bringing dessert or sweets and nothing else, we also farm out the food. That way, the host family doesn't have to do everything.

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Mike, from Tasmania, obviously enjoys poking around in the ABC site, as do I. Here's some links to an Australian Christmas. Even hints for leftovers.

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25.12.03

Christmas Day, 1:40 pm
Here's a glimpse of Christmas down under. We often have a picnic in the afternoon at the beach, but this year's family do will be at my son's tomorrow.

We had an early lunch as my husband wished to visit some friends down from the country. Church this morning to a Christmas Day shortened service. Most are away on holidays, so there were only a few of us there.

We ate outside under our gazebo. Temperature there is now 38 degrees. Celsius, that is. I refuse to do the traditional hot meal. It's really only custom which has been brought across from British forebears along with the wearing of suits and ties in the summer. We had cold turkey breast, my choice-we haven't had turkey for years. Cold ham and lots of lovely fresh asparagus, cooked but still crunchy with a lemony dressing on it. Salad including large fresh tomatoes from my garden. I made my famous curry sauce with fresh mangoes. We also had freshly made juice with apples and lots of peaches. I had some white wine in the fridge for me, but decided the juice suited the weather better. Dessert, not a common dish in our house, was mini pavlova with some cream, fresh strawberries and more peaches. All up, healthy but very nice. Certainly suited the weather.

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24.12.03

A real treat in store for Christmas Eve. Every year I watch the wonderful Carols from Kings and revel in the setting, the words and the music. It's a bit later than usual tonight, but I'll be watching.

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From the letters in today's Herald: the grammar of Christmas? Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses, while fear of Santa is Claustrophobia.

Obviously, someone has far more time to play around with words than I have.

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I watched the annual Carols in the Domain on television the other night. I was tired. The last few weeks have been very hectic here. We have had major financial restructuring (very stressful), to fund my mother-in-law's care in a nursing home. My sister-in-law- has been going steadily downhill in her battle with liver and bowel cancer. I didn't feel like Christmas, however that is supposed to feel. True, summer had arrived, the cicadas were noisy and school had broken up for six weeks break. I was cynical as I watched the comperes with their prepared chatter introduce singers I did not know. Hardly any of the songs were carols. The concert ended with Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. The Prince of Peace was almost entirely disregarded and I was saddened by this.

I note that there are others who feel the same way. BeneDiction has a lengthy post on this feeling. Bene uses strong words to describe emotions. Karen expresses similar feelings.

All my preparations are complete which is just as well as it is now 1630 on Christmas Eve. I still don't feel "Christmassy" in the sense of excitement and awe at tinsel, pretty lights and trees with enormous piles of presents. I do however feel more at peace.

My home group did a major presentation last week. We wanted to get away from the "performance" we knew was expected of us and wanted to involve people in our presentation. We also wanted to move from the sentimental version of "baby Jesus." Christmas is much more than the manger scene.

We asked the congregation to come forward in silence and choose a gift from our representation of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each was then given a corresponding sheet of paper with some appropriate Bible verses for a time of quiet meditation. On returning to the main area, they could then see a TARDIS from the Dr Who series which is currently being rescreened here from the beginning. A phone rang and Dr Who could be heard explaining to the police sergeant that it was much bigger on the inside than the outside. A bookmark with a TARDIS on one side and that quote along with one from CS Lewis' Narnia story was given out to all. The quote said that what was in the stable was much bigger than was expected.

It was while preparing the sheets of verses that I began to look beyond my feelings.

The outcome of that event was world changing. As the scriptwriter Tony Morphett wrote some years ago, there was a hole in my ceiling. God broke through into his creation. What looked inconsequential had enormous potential. That child grew up and we know him as someone mysteriously both truly human and truly God. He grew up to receive both frankincense (deity) and myrrh (humanity and suffering). He is the king of kings and lord of lords, (gold). To use other words of CS Lewis, he is High King over all. Our salvation, our being brought back to God, by God is the result of that birth. It too is much bigger than we often think. Not "eternal life" but rather "life of eternal dimensions" with all that is encompassed in that.

As I reflected on the verses I had chosen for each of the gifts brought by the Magi, my spirit began to rise and I found I could see past the glitter and tinsel, past the out of tune music in the shops, past the frenzy of preparation, even past the baby and I began to catch the tiniest glimpse of what Christmas really is about.

See the eternal Son of God
a mortal son of man;
Dwelling in an earthy clod,
Whom heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies;
Humbled to the dust he is, and in a manger lies.

Charles Wesley

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Here's an update on the post about the car into the kindergarten. The two most seriously injured children, both girls, one two years and the other three, are still in hospital. Both are still critically ill. The two year old has burns to 40% of her body, while the three year old is 80% burnt and has had both her feet amputated. Both face years of reconstructive surgery.

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