The wonder of Christmas

The Tauranga Christian Writers group is part of a nationwide collective of authors, editors and writers.

Founded in 1983, NZ Christian Writers groups meet monthly to encourage and help up-skill people’s writing. This month, instead of writing about the Tauranga group, I asked four members to reflect on their own experience or memories of Christmas, and what it means to them.

What Does Christmas Mean To Me? - Ruth Jamieson

For one day of the calendar year, the world seems to stop – well at least slow down.

So what makes that day so special?

To some, it’s a celebration, to party, or to gather with family and friends. For others it is a day of remembrance for varied reasons.

I like to think on the wonder of it all. Wonder, not in the mystery of a child thinking how an oversized Santa Claus could fit down their chimney – should they have one – or the wonder of what is in the large parcel under the tree.

No, wonder that the God of creation left the grandeur of heaven, coming down into our world to be a babe in a young mother’s arms; that a manger rather than a palace crib was his bed; that his birth was announced to shepherds and not the temple priests; that he willingly came fully knowing his destiny.

Oh the wonder of it all.

Preparing for Christmas  - Ruth Linton

Shopping in places such as The Warehouse can stir up a frenzy of emotions. Why the Christmas paraphernalia so soon? My response is to keep out of these retail outlets as much as possible.

Nevertheless, my thoughts about Christmas are largely positive.

I remember my childhood; unwrapping gifts - none of which were expensive and many were practical, like clothes. Sometimes several families got together which increased the fun, and there was always plenty of food. Too much in fact!

I still love presents, only now I prefer to give than to receive. I am content with my new diaries for the coming year which I lovingly wrap for myself—a family joke. With children, spouses, grandchildren and now a great-grandson, I feel inadequate. My income is not elastic.

Last year I decided to cultivate a more positive attitude. In this increasingly secular world I wanted to make a statement about the real importance of Christmas. As usual I put my ‘stick-it’ Christmas panorama up on the glass front porch. But I also made a display on my fireplace. It was the first time I had used my Christmas lights for many years. I painted a bright sign about the meaning of Christmas and attached it to my front fence. I felt content in God’s love.

Christmas Day is usually quiet, as my family live a distance away. If I’m asked I will host a table at the free Community Christmas Dinner run by St Peters Church. It’s a chance to share some of the joy and hope of Christmas while enjoying an ample nourishing meal. Satisfying!

Christmas Caroling  – Carol Oliver

Pews roped to the truck’s deck, the band sit tight whilst driven around Tauranga’s suburbs.

Coming to a halt, the band master calls out “number… Away in a Manger”. There is a rustling of pages, and on the count of three the band blasts out the age old familiar tune.

Before long, a small crowd gather. “Any favourites?” the band master asks. “Amazing Grace?” - The band do their best to oblige without sheet music.

Older children like myself are given small collection boxes to take door to door.

“Good evening, I’m collecting for the Salvation Army. Would you like to give a donation?”

Most are happy to contribute towards the good work the Sallies do. I only had one bad experience, when a fox terrier bit me on the rump. The man sitting on the doorstep laughed.

At least he was having a merry Christmas.

Bravely, I soldiered on.

Preparing for Christmas  - Dorothy Finlay

In Jerusalem, preparation for Greek Orthodox Christmas Day is not about presents, decorations or mistletoe. Christmas Day is instead a time to pray, to heal the soul. It is also a time of peace and unity.

White cloth used on dinner tables symbolises purity and the cloth that the baby Jesus was wrapped in. Straw may be placed on these tables to symbolise the simplicity of the place where Jesus was born. Candles may be lit to represent the light of Christ.

My experience of Orthodox Christmas is an all-night affair. The extended family visits and enjoys eating special food together.

Late in the evening they attend Mass at the church of the Holy Sepulchre.

A wonderful Dutch hymn has always touched my heart and helps me prepare for Christmas:

“When you come to Bethlehem this time,

Kneel a little longer at His feet,

See God’s Gift of Love, Sent from heaven above,

Oh the wonder of His Love.”

As Advent comes closer, take time to meditate on what Christmas really means; the miracle of the Birth of Jesus, born of a virgin, on time for God’s plan of salvation. Share with others who may have long since forgotten the true meaning of Christmas.