Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas greetings 2018



December 2018 

Loving greetings as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, and look forward to the coming year.

Looking back on the year that is (almost) gone, I am happy to report that Noel and I continue to enjoy the fresh air and beauty of God’s creation.  The fruit on various trees, especially apricot, apple, peach, pear, and quince, as well as delicious berries, is looking good.  We use nets to keep cockatoos, corellas, and parrots out of the trees.  Gardens, Bonsai pots, cutting grass, and looking after the animals keep us exercising in a way that should be beneficial for people of our age.

We are blessed with time to spend with grand-children and their parents, as well as other community and church activities.  Noel has continued his volunteer work with Australian Presbyterian World Missions.  I have joined a consumer advisory committee of the Kyneton Health Service.  I have learnt that Kyneton hospital is the second oldest hospital in Victoria, recently having its 165th Annual General Meeting.

In early October, Emily and Paul and big sister Poppy welcomed Zachariah Benjamin.  It is a joy to see him grow in a loving family.  Josh and Anna and their girls Eve and Norah (pictured above) have recently returned from their 11 months of travel around the world.  The grand-children delight us constantly with their learning, drawings, sporting success, and thoughtfulness.  It is wonderful to have a 4-year old run up to us, hug us and tell us how much he loves us.  Similarly, when an 8-year old declares “This place just gets better and better” ...!  If only we could bottle these moments! 

With love and our best wishes, Joy and Noel


ps
I am privileged to take a small part in the lives of our grand-children.  I find myself wondering what the world will be like for them.

This world is changing in ways that I could not have imagined 20 or 30 years ago, when our children were young.  Yes, societies change with time.  We don't need, nor do we want, to stay stagnant.

I am pondering the way we are passing on the knowledge of Christmas to our little ones. 

The kindergarten class presented their selection of songs to parents, grandparents, and others.  Beautiful children, who were dressed up in green, red, and white that is seen at this time of year.  Plastic reindeer antlers, fake fur trim on pointed hats, little bells to shake, and a bit of bling here and there.  One little girl slipped in as an angel.

They sang some very nice songs about gum trees and our animals - koalas, platypus, kangaroos ... .  They did the actions - more or less together. Then they sang the special songs.  Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is coming to town, and something else, which also totally avoided the mention of God's gift to our world, baby Jesus, or any other point of significance from the Christmas story.

In an attempt to cause no offense to anyone, kindergartens and schools and municipal councils have wiped anything that might have religious significance from their song lists.  The result is that we are celebrating the Northern hemisphere's winter in our summer, with meaningless songs and customs.

A child who has never seen a horse-drawn sleigh, or more than a dusting of snow on Mount Macedon, is singing about what fun it is to ride and sing.  They have no idea of the bright, magical wonderland that appears when fresh snow blankets everything in sight; of the exquisite quietness as a sleigh is drawn across the landscape.

A child who is five years old has probably worked out some of the facts and fallacies about Christmas gifts.  So when they sing that Santa Claus knows who's been "naughty or nice" - it makes no sense.  Christmas is bundled into the fairy stories, along with the tooth fairy and easter bunny.


But this is not new.  We Australians have sung the songs of winter festivities, and joined in the Santa game for as long as I can remember.  The thing that is different today from, say, 50 years ago, is the exclusion of the Christian story.  Christ has been taken out of Christmas.

That's not all.  While Christian celebrations are becoming increasingly rare in the public square, our little ones are encouraged to dress up as grotesque witches and ghouls, and join in parties that celebrate the pagan festival if Halloween.  Do they not notice that that's a religious celebration?

Children grow up, and they often challenge what has been presented as the norms of their society.  My hope is that the children of today will develop clear critical minds that question the customs that make no sense.  My hope is that the children of today will have minds that are open to truth and goodness.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Loving greetings, Christmas 2017






December 2017 

It has been three years since we moved to Kyneton.  Each day we enjoy the beauty as well as learning to deal with some of the challenges of this part of the world.  We feel very blessed being retired, and being able to invest our energy into activities that we believe are important.

From time to time we have a special and memorable opportunity that brings our family together.  Recently we have enjoyed several such gatherings—on the occasions of Paul’s marriage to Emily; Noel’s 70th birthday; and an afternoon of Christmas carols for family and friends at our home, followed by a festive supper. 

It is a wonderful blessing to be able to give and receive love and trust with young children.  We continue to enjoy opportunities to participate in the lives of our seven precious grand-children.  We are delighted to receive pictures that they have drawn, messages they have written, playing with them in a tree house or jumping on the trampoline (they jump—we don’t) , or using the digger in the sand pit.

We are also blessed in the close and trusting relationship we share with Miriam and Neville, Rebecca and Alistair, Paul and Emily, and Josh and Anna. 

As we reflect on the year 2017, we are encouraged to pursue and value gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and other precious fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

With love, and best wishes for a happy Christmas, and God’s continued blessing in the New Year.   

Noel and Joy Johnston


Monday, December 19, 2016

Loving greetings, Christmas 2016



Loving greetings, Christmas 2016 

The God of eternity
entered our time and space.
Put aside infinity
to join a frail race.
Glorious mystery:
babe in a lowly place,
at mother’s breast
content.       
JJ

Today I have been thinking of the points I should include in our annual letter.  I want to reflect on the wonder of the birth of Christ, the blessings we receive each day, and our hopes for the future, to name a few.  With this in mind I went to the website where the previous years’ letters and pictures have been stored, and ... it’s pretty well all there already.  I shouldn’t be surprised!

Twelve months ago we reported the drought in this region.  Rain has fallen in abundance, filling our water tanks (we have no town water supply) and our dam.  The grass and trees have grown beautifully.  Nature lessons for the children have included tadpoles, frogs and fish.

We have continued to be in awe as we witness the growth and development of the seven little ones whom God has entrusted to our family.  Our two six year olds have finished their Prep year at school, and our 12 year old is ready to begin her secondary schooling.  The rich tapestry that encompasses the Christmas story, with well loved Scripture readings, carols and songs of faith repeated each year, must stand in the children’s minds against the increasing secularisation of the holiday.

We mentioned last year that we are looking forward to establishing a Presbyterian Church in Kyneton.  There has been some progress towards that goal, with a good turnout to a special introductory worship service last month.

You might wonder how we fill our days now that we have retired.  Let me assure you, there’s no time to worry about being bored.  Each week there are usually visits from one or more children, which we thoroughly enjoy.  Noel has kept up with mowing grass and other jobs around the property.  He is a member of the Victorian committee, and delegate to the national committee of the Australian Presbyterian World Missions.  I have taken up machine knitting, and enjoy making woollen vests and cardigans and beenies for the children, and other items.  By the time we attend a couple of community and Church activities each week, and keep the house work and gardening up to date, we are able to enjoy a good sleep each night.

We are always delighted to receive cards and letters and electronic greetings from many friends, and we hope this letter finds you well.  In a day when we have many high-tech methods for communication available to us, there is nothing better than talking face to face.  If that opportunity presents, we will be very blessed.  We pray that you will know God’s blessing and guiding in the new year.

With love, Joy and Noel

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Loving greetings, Christmas 2015



Seven precious young blessings

We greet you this Christmas in the name of Jesus, the one whose birth we celebrate.

Over the years our annual letter, and those from many of our friends, have become an opportunity for reflection on the old year, and anticipation of the days and months ahead. 

It’s just one year since we moved from our home of 30+ years in suburban Melbourne, to Kyneton in Central Victoria.  It was a *big* move!  And a good move!

One of my (Joy’s) mother’s ‘sayings’ was “Count your blessings!”.  We have many blessings, and today I will mention just a few.

We have been blessed with a lovely home that’s all on one level, which may be a significant feature as we get older and our bodies need repair work.  Our home is warmed in winter from the North-facing windows and a wood-burning stove, as well as central heat when we need it.  We enjoyed our first winter.  The house is also well protected against the summer heat, and we are thankful for the central cooling on very hot days.  It has become our daily custom to step out of the living room into the fresh morning air, cup of tea in hand.  We are thankful for the wonders of sunrise and sunset, changing seasons, and every other aspect of creation.

We have been blessed to have our family around us.  We are constantly thankful for the health and growth of each of the grand-children, and for their parents.

We have been blessed to have friends and family members visit us. 

We have been blessed to have a new community, getting to know folk who have accepted us into their lives.  We have joined the Presbyterian Church in Gisborne, a picturesque old place with a warm welcome.  We are looking forward to the establishment of the Presbyterian Church here in Kyneton.

We are experiencing drought at the moment, and have a system of pumping water from our little dam, into a 1000 litre drum on a trailer, and pumping it out to water the fruit trees and gardens.  On very hot days we have been going out to do the watering before breakfast.  We have been able to keep the fruit trees and a vegetable garden looking happy, with watering twice a week.  The little Bonsai trees need to be watered every day.

We have been blessed with good health, and are thankful.  I can say now that I needed to retire from midwifery practice – I had not realised what burnout was!  We would like to thank those who pray for us.  We are seeking to be faithful in our prayer for others.

This letter is to be posted on our blog http://joyandnoelannual.blogspot.com.au/  and we hope to have a suitable photo taken when we see our young ones for Christmas lunch, to add to the blog in due course.  Thankyou for the letters, cards, and electronic messages that we have received.  We wish you a happy and safe Christmas celebration, and continued blessing in the new year.

With love, Joy and Noel

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013

Loving greetings from our home to yours
as we celebrate our Saviour's birth




We are pleased to report to you that, despite the progressive and accumulating evidence of our bodies' ageing processes, we are well.

My work (Joy) as the village midwife continues, but these days I find myself realizing more often the time will come for me to no longer commit to getting out of bed in the middle of the night to attend women in labour.  Noel continues to contribute significantly to the work of the local Church, and has recently joined the PCV Missions Committee.

We feel especially blessed to be able to spend time with the younger members of our family, and to contribute to the lives of our grand children. We continue to experience God's mercy and grace, from generation to generation.  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour … God’s mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation ...” (Luke 2:47,50)

Here are a few pictures from this year's album:

A 'selfie': Poppy and Grandpa...

Lucinda joined the family ...

Beautiful mummies and babies ...

Poppy and James climbed mountains ...

Mothers, babies and midwives ...
Noel's birthday - all the candles we could find!

Poppy and Lucinda, at Kyneton
Amelie at the farm
L-R: Lucinda, James, Poppy, Amelie, Eve

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas 2012

Thanks to Alistair, Rebecca, and James Gray for the photo.



Loving greetings
from our home to yours
“Let us now go to Bethlehem, and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:15



As we once again come together to celebrate our Saviour’s birth, we have chosen this lovely image of a precious young child, who is experiencing the Christmas celebration with eyes wide open, learning the stories, and singing the songs of our faith.
The second reflection that I (Joy) would like to share from this picture is that time-honoured theme of mother and child, a theme that occupies my professional and personal life, and brings me a great deal of wonder.
Noel and I have come through 2012 with a wonderful sense of thanksgiving for life and love.
We pray that God will bless you in the coming year, and that you will know peace and strength in all of life’s challenges.
With love,
Noel and Joy