It’s Christmas Eve, 2020. By this time most of us know that this will be a Christmas unlike any other we’ve experienced before.
Christmas can be the most joyful time of the year and for many it can be the most difficult time to manage, perhaps this year more than any other. We want to be with family . We want to ‘raise a glass’ with our friends. We want to hug and laugh and experience joy. But how can we do this when we have to be apart from almost all those we love?
The answer to joy I believe is to be found in 2 special words : Christmas and Faith.
If we take Christ out of Christmas it can just become about us and our own wants. But celebrating the birth of Jesus who came to show us the meaning of Love helps us realize that love is about giving not receiving. And whenever I give I realize that I receive so much joy!
Thinking about the word Faith today I decided to break it down this way :
F – for FAMILY , The Holy family who gave us Jesus and the love we have been given from our own families.
A- for ALTAR , we come to the altar in our churches to give ourselves to God and to receive him in the Holy Eucharist . And we ask the Lord to come to the altar in our hearts so that every beat will proclaim His love.
I- for INSPIRATION, to gain insight and inspiration from the life and eventual death and resurrection of Jesus through meditation ( like the rosary) , written word ( like the bible), and prayer.
T- for TRUTH, so that we realize we are never alone, that we can call upon the Holy Spirit any time of the day and night to find peace.
H- for HAPPINESS, what one feels when “hugged” and comforted by the knowledge that God is love and we are loved by God. He knows exactly who we are and He loves us no matter what.
So let’s have faith this Christmas…. faith that God is aware and weaves everything together for good. Let’s have faith that even death is not the end for us if we believe. And let’s look forward with hope that someday (maybe next Christmas!) we will be able to be with our loved ones and look back on this time with ‘2020 vision’ and remember the lessons learned.
Merry Christmas, dear friends. And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim…” May God bless us, everyone!”
p.s. My photo of the “Bethlehem star” in the first image above.
“The worst thing we ever did was put God in the sky out of reach
pulling the divinity from the leaf, sifting out the holy from our bones, insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement through everything we’ve made a hard commitment to see as ordinary, stripping the sacred from everywhere to put in a cloud man elsewhere, prying closeness from your heart.
The worst thing we ever did was take the dance and the song out of prayer made it sit up straight and cross its legs removed it of rejoicing wiped clean its hip sway, its questions, its ecstatic yowl, its tears.
The worst thing we ever did is pretend God isn’t the easiest thing in this Universe available to every soul in every breath”
From her poetry book ‘Susceptible to Light’
God is near. Emmanuel : “God is with us”. Call Him into your heart and find peace.
Last night we headed out at 4:30 p.m. to try and catch a glimpse of the “Bethlehem star”. This is the very rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that is supposed to resemble the famous Biblical star that led the Wisemen to the manger where Jesus was born.
We decided to drive out into the countryside so I could try and get a photo near a quaint little church we know about. But, alas,the skies were cloudy so the best we could do was a selfie in front of the church with the cloud covered moon.
Because we were out and about anyway we decided that on our last week leading up to Christmas we would enjoy our final neighbourhood light tour by heading over to our locally famous “Candy Cane Lane“.
There was a bit of a lineup when we got back to town so we cut through a mall parking lot so we could get in the back of the line of cars. (No sidewalk walkers or horse and wagons allowed this year). We only had a few cars ahead of us so it all looked good but when the first 10 streetlights had us barely moving I was starting to question the sanity of staying in this situation. That’s when we noticed that although the temporary street sign said ‘No left turn’ drivers were ignoring this and cutting in line just before the light turned red. This, the cars turning right from the other direction, and the usual slow traffic as folks enjoyed the lit up homes made for a very slow wait.
How slow? By the time we finished getting through Candy Cane Lane it had been two hours! (An hour and a half in LINE!!!)
Terry has the patience of a saint but lineups are my #1 pet peave. But I managed to breathe and be happy for the fact that I could look at my phone…ha ha…until it was finally our turn. It’s not usually that slow but we now know to come in from the other side of the neighourhood.
(The “Bah Humbug” sign and the “Ho Ho Ho” sign have been displayed every year since we have lived in Edmonton… over 20 years! Also our church is right on Candy Cane Lane.)
We came home, made fettucine alfredo for a late dinner, and ended the night with “Love Actually”, one of my favourite Christmas movies. 3 days till Christmas! Peace on earth. Peace to you.
It’s the first day of winter and you know what that means. EVERYDAY WE GET 4 MORE MINUTES OF DAYLIGHT!
I think we have to really look for the positives in all this darkness. People are understandably angry and frustrated and just ‘done’ with the whole pandemic thing and with Christmas just 4 days away it makes it all the harder to know (most of us) that we won’t be able to gather with family or friends.
This week we lit the peace candle on our Advent wreath. We need to look for this in our hearts and homes. It’s there if you look for it.
I felt rather upset this week because I was too late for the sign up for in person Christmas mass at our church. I don’t know how I missed the sign up because we have been attending mass every Friday as there are less people at that time.
What I have to remember is that WE are the church…not the building. And we are very blessed to still be able to attend online mass. So although the above illustration needs a few masks drawn in ..ha ha..I think it has the right idea. The people in our lives are the church. Let’s try and love each other and be kinder than ever to each other this week. Jesus could have arrived as a strong, feared King living in a palace. But instead he appeared as a gentle baby born in a stable. One of us. Let’s be more like Him this week.
Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like Bob Willis. Today Bob turned 90 . He is one of those people who has the classic “mind like a steel trap“, former teacher, and just the kindest man. (Used since at least the early 1900s. This idiom relates the sharp jaws of an animal trap snapping shut to a quick and agile mind. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms.)
I met Bob when I joined the Aquasize group that I used to attend three times a week for over 20 years. I have been to many pools in several cities because it is the best form of exercise for my arthritis but no group of people at a pool have been as friendly as the one’s at ‘Bob’s pool’. Bob and I are tall so I found myself near him at the back, near the deep end. The very first day that I joined the group ,Bob (and Elizabeth, another ‘pool lady’) swam up to me and welcomed me. Waaaaaaa? This never happens!
So on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, for years I would gab with Bob while we worked out . Bob referred to it as “Yackersize”…ha ha. I believe it was due to his welcoming attitude that almost everyone in the pool became friends. I’m not exaggerating . Bob seemed to remember everyone’s name and he would introduce us to each other until even I would be swimming up to strangers to welcome them (this was out of my comfort zone for sure!) We ended up having after pool gatherings for coffee 3 times a week,a big Christmas party once a year(at my house), a wonderful summer barbeque once a year(at another pool couple’s house),going out to a friend’s cottage once a year, and a couple times a year we met for potlucks AT the pool! Amazing!
Anyway, over the years I had the pleasure of meeting Bob’s lovely wife, Terry, and eventually his family, and I learned more and more about these great folks. (Terry has now left us for her next journey in Heaven and let me tell you, I have no doubt that was her destination.) It was only fairly recently that Bob finally felt he could no longer get himself to the pool. It was difficult for me to get there by myself especially with only a few (handicapped) spots (and parking spots in general due to the students using so many of them from the school next door)and dangerous snow and ice on the ground for many months of the year. Oh, how I missed my talks with Bob. We (and many other folks) started meeting up with him at the ‘Ricki’s’ for breakfast on a regular basis. He went there so often that we had a sign made for his regular booth ,”Bob’s Booth”..ha ha
Bob is a wonderful husband, father, friend, lover of model train sets, known for his telling of jokes, a former member of the air force, and a teacher too. He and his bride, Terry, helped out with many groups (including Meals on Wheels), cared for their neighbours, and were/are devoted to their church. He still calls me every week if I don’t beat him to it. He has the most positive attitude about life.
So today we are going to do the Covid birthday drive-by and celebrate with all who can make it . Meet us at Bob’s at noon! I’m so blessed to have a friend like Bob.
Have you ever made a snowman? When I was growing up our snow was the perfect ‘snowman snow’ : wet and good for packing.
The first snowfall had us five kids quickly running to struggle into our snowsuits, scarves, mittens, hats, and boots,and asking Mom to find us a carrot and some clothes for our soon-to-be snowman.
But although we started out working each to his own, gathering the snow into small balls (some saved for throwing later!) and starting to roll into larger balls, it soon became clear that we would have to work together to make the three large snowballs needed for our new ‘friend’.
Much like each individual and absolutely unique snowflake became the small snowball by clinging together and becoming one bright orb, we children had to learn to work together to meld our small snowballs into the three huge ones that we needed for our sculpture to come to life.
Then, we had to push together on each snowball to get more and more snow because it was so hard to move. And finally we had to lift together to stack the two, heavy snowballs onto the biggest one at the base. Working together and helping each other was so much fun and then finally, dressing up our ‘guy’ was the final joy.
These days we can’t physically work together to help each other so what can we do? We can come together in prayer! We can reach out to each other with a phone call, Zoom call, letter,email…. We can still come together in spirit and uplift each other and like the final dressing up of the snowman we can adorn each other…with love!
(p.s. the above photos were taken around my neighbourhood. I love the ‘Zooming’ snowman!)
I hope you will enjoy this story as much as I did….
In 1979, I was managing a Wendy’s in Port Richey Florida. Unlike today, staffing was never a real problem, but I was searching for a someone to work three hours a day only at lunch.I went thru all my applications and most were all looking for full time or at least 20 hours per week. I found one however, buried at the bottom of a four-inch stack that was only looking for lunch part-time. His name was Nicky. Hadn’t met him but thought I would give him a call and see if he could stop by for an interview. When I called, he wasn’t in but his mom said she would make sure he would be there.
At the accorded time, Nicky walked in. One of those moments when my heart went in my throat. Nicky suffered from Downs Syndrome. His physical appearance was a giveaway and his speech only reinforced the obvious.I was young and sheltered. Had never interacted on a professional level with a developmentally disabled person. I had no clue what to do, so I went ahead and interviewed him.He was a wonderful young man. Great outlook. Task focused. Excited to be alive. For only reasons God knew at that time, I hired him. 3 hours a day, 3 days a week to run a grill.
I let the staff know what to expect. Predictably the crew made sure I got the message, ” no one wants to work with a r****.” To this day I find that word offensive. We had a crew meeting, cleared the air, and prepared for his arrival.Nicky showed up for work right on time. He was so excited to be working. He stood at the time clock literally shaking with anticipation. He clocked in and started his training. Couldn’t multi task, but was a machine on the grill.Now for the fascinating part…..
Back in that day, there were no computer screens to work from. Every order was called by the cashier. It required a great deal of concentration on the part of all production staff to get the order right. While Nicky was training during his first shift, the sandwich maker next to him asked the grill man/trainer what was on the next sandwich. Nicky replied,” single, no pickle no onion.” A few minutes later it happened again. It was then that we discovered Nicky had a hidden and valuable skill.
He memorized everything he heard! Photographic hearing! WHAT A SKILL SET. It took 3 days and every sandwich maker requested to work with Nicky. He immediately was accepted by the entire crew.After his shift he would join the rest of his crew family, drinking Coke like it was water! It was then that they discovered another Rainman-esque trait. Nicky was a walking/talking perpetual calendar!
With a perpetual calendar as a reference, they would sit for hours asking him what day of the week was December 22, 1847. He never missed. This uncanny trait mesmerized the crew.His mom would come in at 2 to pick him up. More times than not, the crew would be back there with him hamming it up. As I went to get him from the back, his mom said something I will never forget. “Let him stay there as long as he wants. He has never been accepted anywhere like he has been here.” I excused myself and dried my eyes, humbled and broken hearted at the lesson I just learned.
Nicky had a profound impact on that store. His presence changed a lot of people. Today I believe with every fiber of my body that Nicky’s hiring was no accident. God’s timing and will is perfect.This Christmas, I hope we all understand what we are celebrating. We are all like Nicky. We each have our shortcomings. We each have our strong points. But we are all of value. God made us that way and God doesn’t make mistakes. Nicky certainly wasn’t a mistake. He was a valuable gift that I am forever grateful for.
We are celebrating the birth of the ONE that leveled the playing field for all of us. God doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, republican or democrat or black or white. He doesn’t care if your chromosome structure is perfect. He doesn’t care what level of education you have attained.He cares about your heart. He wants us all to love and appreciate the gift HE gave us on Christmas, His son, the Savior, our salvation. His Son that was born to die for our sins. To pay our debt. To provide us a path for eternity.
So this Christmas, Let’s check our hearts. There is a little bit of Nicky in all of us and I suspect there is a Nicky somewhere in your life that is looking for the chance to be embraced. Thank God for that. Thank God for His perfect gift, Christ Jesus.
I couldn’t find out the author of this delightful story but I thought it was worth passing on. (Thank you, Rosemary, for this wonderful inspirational tale.)
Sick of sitting in front of the television every single night? Grab a thermos of coffee/tea or hot chocolate and head out to one of the many light displays around your city. Many neighbourhoods are getting into the Christmas spirit by ‘lighting up the night’ and you don’t have to pay a thing for this entertainment.
We are trying to head out once a week leading up to Christmas so last night we DID pay and went out to the Castrol Raceway ( “Not only is it a memorable night out for the family, but it also helps raise funds for some important charities at work in our communities. A portion of all ticket sales go to 630 CHED Santas Anonymous and Canadian Tire Jump Start, who work tirelessly to support families and children during the holidays and beyond.“)which has 2.5 kilometres of wonderful light displays for you to enjoy with your family.
If you’re from Edmonton this magical display is on until January 2nd. Crank up the Christmas tunes and away ya go!
Year’s ago I saved an idea I once saw on Pinterest. I was so attracted to this old fashioned looking, framed Christmas tree but since I always seemed to be busy with my weekly routines/work I never made the time for it.
Well Covid gave me all the time I needed this past summer so I spent many hours trying to gather old jewelry….especially earrings from the 1950’s or thereabouts. I asked my sisters to look for them at antique stores (which is one of their/our favourite haunts), asked my Mum for any jewelry she didn’t want, and I looked through my own stash too and came up with some pieces that I’d actually worn as a child! I too looked in our big antique mall and found the delightful bird brooches on the upper sides of the tree. Finally, I did the garage sale/V.V. thing until I felt I had enough to make the size tree I was looking to create.
I found the frame at an antique store in Lac La Nonne, and amazingly it was the exact right size . I went to Fabric Land to buy some surprisingly expensive velvet for the background. But I felt I needed that ‘rich’ look to compliment all the sparkling jewels.
Terry offered to build me a ‘shadow box’ . I was just planning on having the tree open framed but Terry assured me the deeper box was the way to go to keep the jewelry safely protected. And,in order to do this he would need to buy some new tools…(which he was not upset about …ha ha)
So while Terry was creating the beautiful, ‘flocked’ box, I got to work removing every single backing from every single earring or brooch. Youch! That was a bit of work.
Next up I decided to glue tacks onto every piece. This way they would be doubly secure! It was nerve wracking for me to start using the glue as I am ‘glue challenged’ ha ha,and knew I would have strings of the stuff all over the place. But , luckily, I got into a rhythm and was actually very neat and kept the velvet pristine. I also learned to wear gloves so that my fingers weren’t covered with the stuff at the end of the day.
Once the box was completed we took it to friends of ours at Kamena framing to have a piece of glass cut.
Every once in a while, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and reject it. There are many reasons she may do this. If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may even kick the poor animal away. Once a ewe rejects one of her lambs, she will never change her mind.
These little lambs will hang their heads so low that it looks like something is wrong with its neck. Their spirit is broken. These lambs are called “bummer lambs.” Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die, rejected and alone. So, do you know what the shepherd does?
He takes that rejected little one into his home, hand-feeds it and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with blankets and hold it to his chest so the bummer can hear his heartbeat. Once the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock. But that sheep never forgets how the shepherd cared for him when his mother rejected him. When the shepherd calls for the flock, guess who runs to him first? That is right, the bummer sheep. He knows his voice intimately.
It is not that the bummer lamb is loved more, it just knows intimately the one who loves it. It’s not that it is loved more, it just believes it because it has experienced that love one on one.
So many of us are bummer lambs, rejected and broken. But He is the good Shepherd. He cares for our every need and holds us close to His heart so we can hear His heart beat. We may be broken but we are deeply loved by the Shepherd. “Author Unknown “
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. ~ Psalm 23