Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Cruises banning Christmas

Today I stumbled upon this article in the paper that informed me that the Cruises are not celebrating Christmas (and therefore not telling their daughter about Santa or giving her presents) because they "do not hold to the belief that Christ is the son of God". Now, I don't read much about the Cruises, and I don't know how accurate the reporting is (and to say nothing of the fact that Santa has very little to do with Christ being the son of God anyway, or the sadness of their disbelief) but I felt like there was a sense in which you had to give them some credit for that decision. It would appear that they have investigated what Christmas is really about, decided that they don't believe in it, and therefore that they are not just going to capitulate to society and indulge their child in the all the 'seemingly harmless' paraphenalia that comes with its celebration. Whatever you happen to think of Tom Cruise (and I am just going to leave that, and the errors of scientology, alone), that, at least, is conscious and deliberate parenting.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The transformation of sorrow

I discovered today at work that I can no longer post on my own blog or read or post comments on other blogs. Sigh, I think it is the beginning of the end ...

Anyway, it's no secret that I am fan of George Eliot's novels, and her surpassing skill of perception. I ground to a halt trying to read Dickens' Bleak House this year, and have had my opinion somewhat affirmed in a comparison of Dickens and Eliot by Stephen Gill in which he writes: "That Dickens should be able to render 'with the utmost power the external traits of our town population' makes it all the more tragic that he should be so unable to depict 'their psychological character; their conceptions of life, and their emotions - with the same truth as their idiom and manners ...'." I'm not the person to criticise a master such as Dickens (though I did indeed get weary of his wordy descriptions of exteriors) and his art has its place no doubt, but Eliot is, to me, the master of inhabiting her characters and depicting their psychological character.

However, I was flicking through Adam Bede and found the following paragraph, wherein Eliot actually steps back into narrative, that I have decided to post:

For Adam, though you see him quite master of himself, working hard and delighting in his work after his inborn inalienable nature, had not outlived his sorrow - had not felt it slip from him as a temporary burthen, and leave him the same man again. Do any of us? God forbid. It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling, if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it - if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self-confident blame, the same light thoughts of human suffering, the same frivolous gossip over blighted human lives, the same feeble sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth irrepressible cries in our loneliness. Let us rather be thankful that our sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force, only changing its form, as forces do, and passing from pain into sympathy - the one poor word which includes all our best insight and our best love. Not that this transformation of pain into sympathy had completely taken place in Adam yet: there was still a great remnant of pain, which he felt would subsist as long as her pain was not a memory, but an existing thing, which he must think of as renewed with the light of every new morning. But we get accustomed to mental as well as bodily pain, without, for all that, losing our sensibility to it: it becomes a habit of our lives, and we cease to imagine a condition of perfect ease as possible for us. Desire is chastened into submission; and we are contented with our day when we have been able to bear our grief in silence, and act as if we were not suffering. For it is at such periods that the sense of our lives having visible and invisible relations beyond any of which either our present or prospective self is the centre, grows like a muscle that we are obliged to lean on and exert.
I think that is just beautiful, and it calls to mind 2 Cor 1:3-11. On an essentially rather similar note, I read this post today, for those of us going home alone again this Christmas, which I found through this post.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Christmas Meme

OK, I know I said I was taking a break, but I have been tagged in this Christmas meme by Nicole. So, I am going to tag Mandy and Dave.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper.
2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial (would like a real one, would especially like to trudge through the snow to get a real one, but that's just not the way it is).
3. When do you put up your tree? Early December (actually I don't put it up anymore, but that is when it goes up).
4. When do you take the tree down? Usually a few days after Christmas.
5. Do you like eggnog? Not sure I could say with any certainty ...
6. Favourite gift received as a child? The Littles' Doll House. I still have it. All the old-fashioned furniture is made out of cast metal, and it's just exquisite. There's a pot-belly stove with a door that opens, and tiny bed-side lamps and foot stools etc.
7. Do you have a Nativity scene? No. But my sister brought a wooden one for my Mum back from Africa, so we have that at home.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My brothers-in-law, but history books usually work.
9. Easiest person to buy for? My nieces! I just have to rein myself in.
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Can't think of one either.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail.
12. Favorite Christmas movie? Hmmm, not sure. But I like watching movies like Little Women at Christmas - they take all their precious Christmas food, which was not a lot during the war, to their destitute neighbours, and when Beth gets the piano, well, I come undone at that point.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Um, usually in November, when family starts reminding me that Christmas is coming.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes.
15. Favorite things to eat at Christmas? Cherries! And my Nana's pudding and a special chocolate-caramel slice my family does at Christmas and fruit mince pies. And I like to have some of the foreign food too, like panforte, pannetone and stollen, just for a treat (I usually go to Peter's of Kensington and find a few fine things to take home).
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear - don't like tacky things at Christmas!
17. Favorite Christmas song? "Gloria" as sung on the Michael W. Smith Christmas album. I also love the "Christmas Hymn" on an old Amy Grant Christmas tape. Sounds REALLY corney I know, but Gloria is just euphoric - I love the choir and the drums and the crescendo - and the words of the Hymn are great (see below) - Amy Grant sings out a line, then the choir echoes, and we used to sing it as an item in my old church in Tamworth.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel these days, as I have no family in Sydney.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? NO!
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The hoards of people at the shops, and the consumerism - and the heat in Queensland, which usually means we end up confined to an air-conditioned room.
23. What is the "corniest" family tradition you do, or miss doing? Hmmm, it's all class at our place ;). We usually have those cheap Christmas crackers, which contain the corniest jokes ever so we go around the table and groan over those.
24. Ugliest Christmas Decoration ever invented? Blow-up lawn decorations.
25. Which looks the best, theme trees or homey trees? Homey trees.
26. What does Christmas mean to you? Immanuel, God with us.

Christmas Hymn

Praise to god whose love was shown
Who sent his son to earth
Jesus left his rightful throne
Became a man by birth

The virgin’s baby son
All creation praised him
God incarnate come
Come to bethlehem

Still a higher call had he
Deliverance from our sins
Come to set his people free
From satan’s hold within

For by the sin of man we fell
By the son of god
He crushed the power of hell
Death we fear no more

Now we stand with strength, with power
The sons of God on earth
Faithful to the final hour
Christ’s righteousness our worth

And now all praise is given
For the babe, the son
The savior king is risen
Christ is lord indeed

For the babe, the son
The savior king is risen
Christ is lord indeed

Friday, December 07, 2007

Poetry Friday XVII

Well, today is poetry Friday, but I have actually decided to take a break from blogging for a while - since all I am doing of late is poetry Friday anyway. In a couple of weeks I am going to run the risk of driving Bessie, the little old car I have had since Lancelot was written off, to Brisbane for Christmas. This year it will be just me and Mum, with my sisters and their families heading to their husband's families in other towns, so that is going to be a little quiet and different (it's just so much more fun with the kids, and you get to play with toys all afternoon). Then in January I will be back and looking for a little flat to live in, a new church, and a new job. On that note, I just read this post on the benefits of living in close proximity to your church, and this post on careerism, which is worth keeping in mind (not that I am in too much danger of that of late).

For those of you who liked my toenail story of last Friday (this is for you Em) this morning I was out for my jog and went too close to one of those big spikey plants protuding over someone's front fence and pricked my hand, and just with the way the minutest cuts on your fingers bleed excessively, and the way I was moving, by the time I got home I could have hired my hand out for a horror film (when the reality is that once I washed it you couldn't even find where all the blood was coming from). Today I decorated my new desk at work with festive paraphenalia, just to get into the spirit of it. I don't know what's happened to the 'razor wire' I had last year, and my colleague has put the pink wings on Steve Irwin and brought out her radioactive reindeer again (it's hot pink - everything with her is hot pink - and just looks like it must have been too close to Chernobyl if you ask me). She actually gave me a rustic looking angel, which she thinks is disgusting (each to their own!) and which I think goes perfectly on my feature post (the old wooden beam that runs right through the middle of my desk). I also lost my mouse pad in the move, so she offered me her "crocs rule" one, which I politely declined.

Anyway, I do have a poem. This is one for the lead up to Christmas. I like it because it reminds me of what the Incarnation was actually for. And if anything blog worthy happens any time soon, it'll be here.

The Burning Babe

Robert Southwell (1561(?)–1595)

AS I in hoary winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
To view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
Did in the air appear;
Who, scorchèd with excessive heat,
Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
Which with His tears were bred:
‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts
Or feel my fire but I!

‘My faultless breast the furnace is;
The fuel, wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;
The ashes, shames and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defilèd souls:
For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
To wash them in my blood.’
With this He vanish’d out of sight
And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callèd unto mind
That it was Christmas Day.