Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Kisses

From Church Ads 2009 campaign

No, not the ones under the mistletoe, but we’ll get to that!

I think I get the whole Advent/Christmas thing the wrong way round. Advent is certainly the season of preparation, but it’s rather frantic. It’s meant to be a season of reflection and penitence, time to take stock and wait patiently and expectantly for the light of the world. Instead I find myself rushing around with an ever increasing to-do list. I’ve found unopened emails dating back to 14th November (sorry Carolyn!), but I have now actually bought a turkey. Perhaps my anxiety dreams might stop now…

On the other hand, when Christmas actually comes, the bit that’s really the fun, noise and celebration, that’s when I really get the chance to pause and reflect. I’m looking forward to our candlelit carol service at church tonight, when I can sit in the quiet half-light and finally stop.

People talk about ‘thin’ places. Places where the separation between heaven and earth, between God and humanity, seems to be thinner than usual. Often these are places where many people over the centuries have had deep encounters with God. Places like Lindisfarne or Iona, where God seems nearer, closer to hand. Sometimes the place is just a thin place for an individual. The top of a mountain is a good candidate.

For me, Christmas is a thin place. I guess that’s not surprising, considering what happened on the first Christmas. The separation between earth and heaven was stretched so thin on that night, that God actually broke through. He became human and made his home on the earth. He became that baby, born to parents far from home, and laid his head on the straw because all the beds were taken. And through the rip in the membrane between heaven and earth, the night workers on the hill looking after the sheep were able to see right into heaven and get a glimpse the angels worshipping God. Meanwhile, Mary, Jesus’s mother, captures the wonder and mindblowing-ness of the incarnation as she holds the baby Jesus, God, in her arms. As one carol speculates, of all the people who came to worship this baby, she was the one who was able to worship him with a kiss.

And so we come to the Christmas kisses. Each Christmas I’m reminded that there is no longer any separation between God and his creation, however many barriers we construct. Christmas is a thin place, so thin that there is no separation. God’s gift of his son, his becoming present on the earth, is to me like God kissing the earth. As if he reaches down and touches everyone of us with his embrace, filling the space between earth and heaven. And in the quiet tonight, or when the choir starts to sing, in the thin space where God is close at hand, I will be looking for a glimpse of the angels so that I can join in with their singing, with their message of peace on earth and goodwill to all people.

I like this carol by Edmund Sears with its imagery of heaven being open to earth.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.





Sprouts are for life, not just for Christmas

sproutsMy blog has been rather neglected during our relocation, not much time for deep thinking. So, something simple to start off again.

I try to find ways to tread more lightly on this planet, with an eye on the future inheritance of our children, and as a matter of justice for those who don’t have the option to consume as many of the earth’s resources as those of us who are wealthy. (And we are wealthy, check here to find out!) I have to say I achieve variable degrees of success, and making time is usually a significant factor. But I tried two of them today, which has led me to this post.

Firstly, although we’re not vegetarians, I try to cook meat-free for our family main meal at least once a week. Animal protein takes up much more energy and resources to produce than vegetable protein. Secondly, I try to buy vegetables from a greengrocer rather than a supermarket. I hope this means I am purchasing food closer to the supplier in terms of cutting out middle men and food miles. So today, I walked to my new local greengrocer on my way to collect my youngest from school to buy fresh veggies for dinner. But – shock horror! – they didn’t have any sprouts! And when I asked why they didn’t have any sprouts, I was told that no-one really buys them after Christmas!

So I am hereby starting a new campaign. Sprouts are for life, and not just for Christmas. Although, more correctly, sprouts are for Autumn and Winter when they are in season, and not just for Christmas. How can it be possible that most people only eat fairy cabbages once a year? They are much too nice to be restricted in this way.

And to help the campaign, here is my favourite sprout-containing meat-free meal, adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday. There’s four of us, this filled us up nicely today:

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • chopped chilli to taste
  • 2 carrots, chopped into thin batons
  • 10 or 12 sprouts, finely sliced
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • bag of beansprouts
  • (or you can use whatever vegetables you have lurking in your fridge or veg rack)
  • enough noodles to feed your family
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry (Hugh says rice wine but I never have any)
  • ½ tsp chinese five spice
  • salt and pepper

cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet

stir fry the veg in oil, adding them in the order above (ie onions need a bit longer than the carrots and so on) – I use a wok for this

remove the veg from the wok and drain the noodles

put the soy sauce, sherry and five spice in the wok over a low heat, add the noodles and stir to coat

put the veg back in the wok over the heat, mix thoroughly together, season and serve