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

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."