The reason for the season

December 24, 2019

Jim Hopkins remembers Christmases past:

. . . Christmas always stirs strong feelings and vivid memories for me.

I grew up south of the tracks in Christchurch when coal was king and fired the steam trains that thundered through. Dad was the vicar at St Mary’s Addington and, for him, Christmas was one of the most important times of the year.

Which should come as no surprise, though it may do now.

A birth in Bethlehem is, after all, the reason we actually have a Christmas holiday. And that birth used to be an integral part of the celebration.

Recognised in school nativity plays, on the wireless, in newspapers, its story touched most people’s lives.

Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men shared the limelight with Mr Claus and his elves.

Needless to say, the vicar’s offspring took their place in the pews – along with the rest of the community. Service first, pud and presents later. That was the drill.

I can still see the interior of that old church, dark timber beams, dust motes drifting in the light filtered through stained glass windows. I can hear the carols. I can smell the Christmas lillies. These memories return every year, as time grows longer, becoming ever stronger.

But the Christmas I remember is a faded thing. As the churches have lost (or surrendered) their influence, so faith has left the festive season.

Christmas today is a strictly secular affair with scant public recognition of its religious roots. The establishment avoids them and the media simply ignores them.

Bad for business or just old hat, anything biblical is off the agenda. Those who run the fourth estate may argue that’s because fewer people say they’re Christian, to which the reply might be, maybe that’s because you’ve spent decades dismissing their beliefs.

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas day. . .

A few days ago I read a media release from a government entity (which I now can’t find) explaining how it’s sensitive to employees who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Fair enough, but sensitivity shouldn’t mean pretending it’s something else, especially when it’s not applied to celebrations for other religions.

No-one pretends that Diwali isn’t a Hindu festival, we’re not asked to skirt round, we shouldn’t be offended if someone wishes us happy Hanukkah so why the pussy-footing around Christmas?

You don’t have to be a Christian to understand and acknowledge the reason for the season.

You don’t have to believe what Christians do.

And Christian or not, we’d all be better off with more reflection on the real message of hope, joy, peace and love.


Summer Christmas

December 10, 2018

A few years ago we spent Christmas in Canada.

For the first time a lot of the traditions we’ve imported from the northern hemisphere made sense there in a way they don’t here.

Our family accepted long ago that we’re in the Southern Hemisphere and our Christmas celebrations reflect that – keeping them simple and summery.

Beef + Lamb NZ is doing it’s best to foster the spirit of a southern Christmas:


‘Tis the season

December 24, 2017

It used to take years to get from one Christmas to the other, I’m not sure if it’s even been weeks since the last one.

But however quickly it’s come, it is Christmas Eve.

Thank you to all who read and especially to those of you who add to the conversations.

Wishing you all the joys of Christmas and may 2018 be especially kind to you and yours.


Counting down to Christmas

December 6, 2014

It used to take years to get from one Christmas to another.

I don’t think it’s even been weeks since the last one.

But here we are counting down to this one with the first candle of advent having been lit.

 

advent

The credit for the wreath goes to Jonell’s Florist in Oamaru who make me one each year.

Everyone has been different, all have been beautiful.


5/12

December 24, 2013

A sorry 5/12 in NZ History Online’s Christmas quiz – most questions are pretty obscure, would help to read the references first.


Phew!

December 24, 2012

Just back from my last trip to town before Christmas and keeping to the spirit of our keeping-it-simple celebration managed to get round the supermarket with only a basket.

There’s just a bit of tidying up to do at home then tomorrow with extended family to look forward to.

Thanks to all of you who read, extra special thanks for all who leave a comment which adds to the interest of the blog, and blogging.

May your Christmas be happy and may 2013 be kind to you and yours.

P.S.

If you want some pre-Christmas reading, I commend Remembering the Night: Christmas Story 2012 at Bowalley Road.


Sing the song of Christmas

December 24, 2011

Jim Hopkins begins his column Silent Night voice of our history:

The spirituality of Christmas has been heedlessly stripped away by the Caesars of our age … It was playing on the wireless last week, Justin Bieber’s version of Silent Night, and no matter how soppy the singer, the song still cuts, every time, like love, to the quick. There are always tears in the tune and a lifetime in its lines.

Silent Night is the song of Christmas. There’s so much inside it. The melody floats and soars and lives in the Gothic nave of our imagination, stirring something in us we’d forgotten was there. . .

And concludes it:

. . . But that will happen only if we acknowledge the character and history of Christmas and allow some part of the holy day into the holiday. And that’s all but gone now. The spirituality of Christmas has been heedlessly stripped away by the Caesars of our age, who would have no rendering except to themselves. Officially, like or not, this is still a Christian country, yet our politicians – and the media they control on our behalf – cannot summon the will to make any reference to 2000 years of tradition and belief. We have come to a contrary pass when those who assert the sanctity of taonga in one breath will so casually forsake it in the next.

Still, Silent Night survives. To goad, comfort, challenge and console. As memory and star, it is the song of Christmas. Sing it.

The bits in between are worth reading too.


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