Was yours a Christmas at war?

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I don’t know if your Christmas was like mine (a succession of grim fought battles) but it seems many were. I was feeling a little down, a little lacking in “Christmas spirit”. Then I heard a voice in my heart. “Christmas was full of battles, battles and great joy,” it whispered.

I reflected on the Christmas story, anything but “warm and fuzzy”, with its fearful visitations, rejection and humiliation, its hard journey on the jolting back of a donkey to find no refuge, or comfort at journeys end. Its having to flee from a tyrant’s wrath. Yet woven into the fabric of fear and stress were those moments of supreme joy – the birth of God among men, the prophecies fulfilled, the arrival of shepherds, who alone understood the symbolism of the sacrificial lamb, wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, the visit of the magi, wisest of the wise, who read the signs and provided the means for their trip to Egypt.

I realised I had experienced a true Christmas.

God had made it possible against all odds for my daughter’s Danish husband to make it home from Greenland for Christmas (oh the joy in their faces!) Another daughter’s abrupt panic and seeming relapse into long covid, on hearing news of a new strain, was slowly replaced by peace and wellbeing. Best of all the diagnosis that my soon to be eighth grandson and beloved youngest daughter could be in danger proved to be a miscalculation. Mother and baby are fine and nearing a regular delivery the consultant confirmed. Battles though these were, each turned to a resounding victory heralding great joy, far more precious than the warm fuzzy feelings I’d been hoping for.

Strangely having recognised this, the Lord gave me the Christmas I’d been seeking, not on Dec 25th. but soon after, a peaceful day full of all the joys of Christmas, good food, games, carols, and a Christmas movie, celebrated with a dear friend and abounding in “warm, fuzzy feelings”. The Lord is so good to us!

Perhaps though we should remember, particularly in these days, a Christian’s path tends to be strewn with battles and war, victory and intense joy, rather than warm fuzzy feelings.

Christmas is unstoppable!

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Christmas cannot be stopped by rules and regulations. It’s been celebrated in prisoner of war camps, in gulags. Even in the death camps it was not forgotten. If anything, it was stronger. Stripped of the trimmings, the food and glitter, Christmas gives forth it’s pure message, that hope was born into the world. Alone into a dark place of foreign occupation, of poverty and heartbreak, hope was born.

Not yet the certainty, but the seed, a tiny baby yet to grow, yet to heal, comfort, and mend the broken hearts, to set the captives free. They couldn’t see it yet. As the song goes, “Mary did you know?” How could she know all that was to come to pass, the joy and the pain this life brings, but she believed. Stripped of its Santa’s and reindeer, the tinsel and holly, stripped even of the presence of those we love dearly, Christmas still stands unconquerable in all its hope and glory.

What a year it’s been!

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I was watching my Christmas lights wink at me today from the comfort of my sofa. December always seems to go hand in hand with reminiscing. We reflect on the last 12 months, committing the highs to memory and banishing the lows to the year we leave behind.

Most, if not all of us, will be glad to see the back of 2020. The global pandemic and ensuing chaos has been challenging (to put it mildly). It’s safe to say no one has fully escaped its effects in one way or another. However, as 2020 draws to a close, I’m choosing to focus on some of the more positive outcomes we’ve seen. Communities have come together to support each other in tangible, unselfish ways. We’ve fed each other, clothed each other, and helped each other tackle these unprecedented times!

As December rolls in (and 2020 rolls out) I’m choosing to focus on the achievements of the year, rather than its pitfalls.

Perhaps the most significant (and in hindsight, ironic) personal milestone this year was seeing “When Falls the Night” come to fruition! I use ‘significant’ for obvious reasons – it’s been a lifelong goal of mine to publish a novel. When Falls the Night is the end product of decades of dabbling in creative writing (my hard drive can attest to this). Looking past my Christmas lights and seeing its cover binding among my other novels feels surreal – and empowering!

You’ll remember I used ‘ironic’ to describe publishing my book as well. Well, let’s be honest – there’s definitely been an apocalyptic undercurrent to this crazy year! We only have to look at our social media feeds to see the countless ‘zombie apocalypse meets Jumanji’ memes in circulation. Injecting a bit of humour into an otherwise difficult situation is always great – but ‘many a truth is spoken in jest’. This year has come eerily close to mirroring a lot of apocalyptic scenarios we’re used to only seeing on the big screen…

Or the pages of a book.

When I wrote ‘When Falls the Night’, it was important to me to accurately represent the grim reality of the post-apocalyptic world it features. However, I also wanted to convey a message of hope. That there IS life after death (whether literal or figurative). That we CAN rebuild ourselves and our communities. That tragedy can unite instead of divide us if we let it. That we can heal.

Healing and hope are gifts that everyone can offer. And while social distancing, tiers and restrictions may prevent us from imparting these in person, the power of the written word still stands. It’s why books have stood the test of the time, and are still one of the most popular gifts during the Christmas season when we’re all at home with time to reflect.

I started writing ‘When Falls the Night’ before I knew just how relevant it would become – and how soon! I’m now so thankful I was able to paint a picture of recovery from global (and personal) trauma. Reading back over it fills me with me hope for the future. Many of my readers have reached out and expressed the same.

If I could, I’d send every single reader a copy of my book right now. That’s how much I believe in its relevance to this year’s troubles and the coming year’s path to hope. And while it may not be conventional fireside reading (it’s pretty far from Charles Dickens), I’d like to think the reminder of God’s hand in our own through the darkest times is particularly relevant – and a gift that keeps on giving!

Before I sign off to collect my grandson from his Christmas Disco (another thing I’m thankful for, though never thought I’d need to be – support bubbles), I’ll include a link below for any of whose interest my musings might have piqued: (It’s on offer).

Back to staring at my Christmas lights lol!