Falling Out with Christmas – a guest post

Today I welcome one of my fellow Association of Christian Writers friends to the blog, Keren Dibbens-Wyatt. Here Keren is sharing her thoughts on her changing ‘relationship’ with the Christmas season. Leaving us with lots to think about…

Falling out with Christmas

Christmas and I don’t really get along any more. We had a bit of a falling out somewhere along the way. It was okay when I was little, and someone else made it all happen, and it was quite fun when I was well and still young enough to enjoy parties. But since I became chronically ill, and chronically spiritual, the whole razzle dazzle thing has lost its charm.

Now I feel like we are childhood friends who have outgrown one another. Christmas seems like a time when we are all supposed to fix a grin on our faces, trawl round the shops looking for the perfect presents (which lo and behold are the very things which are the latest or most expensive), pretend we like everyone in our family, wear ourselves out writing cards and bankrupt ourselves buying the stamps to post them with and then pig out on way too much food. The one imperative thing is that we must, absolutely must, enjoy it, or pretend that we are.

But of course, as Christians, we know that’s not what the festival is really about. And yet, we all seem to buy into that whole perfect commercial fuzzy-feeling happy wonderful magic buzz. And when that’s not there, disappointment lies in wait. The whole thing feels like a hiding to nothing. And I wonder how, as someone who this year will see no-one but my husband, because family have all moved away and I’m too ill to socialise anyway, that whole “you must have fun” yuletide directive still finds its way into my head.

I think it is because I really do want to enjoy it. I really would like to recapture some of that childhood excitement and magic. I do want the candle halo to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But for me, now, feasting means something very different than it used to. It’s not about food or drink. It is about becoming so engrossed in the miracle of “God with us” that I feel like I’m bursting with joy inside. It is about the wonder of the person of Christ, the Logos Word of God choosing to become an embryo, to grow within a woman, to be born into this divinely messy world. It is that willingness to set his power aside and make himself utterly vulnerable, that blows me away at Christmas. It is a beginning that inevitably leads to the cross, which makes it all the more amazing.

The whole thing is incomprehensibly loving and vast. And so, for me, and for all those who share this faith, the celebration is one I carry in my heart every day of the year. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the feasting, it just means that we hold it precious in a way that makes the presents and the mince pies simply symbols of love and joy, and not the centre piece of the day. Maybe if I can remember this, some of that worldly pressure might fall away, and Christmas and I might learn to like one another again.

Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a disabled writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her full-length publications include Garden of God’s Heart and Whale Song: Choosing Life with Jonah. She lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness.

Photo credit: Pixabay

December Blessings – A guest poem

Today’s guest post is from my sister-in-law, another Ann-Marie, (though she spells it wrong 😀 😀 😀 )

The poem is short, but beautiful. And here it is…

December Blessings

At last I escape
from head wreck and heart ache
The bright blue skies balm to my soul
Gusty breezes toss up the crows like black confetti
The silver birches are shapely and clean
And there is the Oak, just quietly being,
witness to petty life
As always, I place my hand on its cracked bark
and soak in its power
It gathers up the wind and blows a blessing
through my hair

(c) Ann-Marie Dunne

photo credit: Rojs Rozentāls winter hunter via photopin (license)

Some Christmas & Winter writing…

I can hardly believe it is already December 10th! Where have the last couple of weeks gone. NaNoWriMo has come and gone and I’m pretty happy with my mass of 50,000+ garbled words. As I mentioned before, I’ll be returning to the Isaiah series in the Spring and am welcoming some guest writers to the blog over December.

I’m just sorry to be so late starting…

To kick off, here is a piece from my dear friend, back in Ireland – Mary Barber. Mary has shared on the blog before – you may remember ‘Paradise on a Penitential Island.’ I love her writing so much and am delighted to have her back. If you’re not familiar with Irish mythology, you might need to google some of the names. Mary seems to have entitled her piece, ‘Christmas Thingy,’ 😀 but I’m going to pull rank as editor and call it…

Darkness and Light

I don’t know much about Irish mythology. Having said that, I do remember snatches of the stories of Oisín, and the Salmon of Knowledge, and Diarmuid and Gráinne, and they have a fond place in my heart. My favourite piece of modern art is Fionn MacCumhail and his dogs Bran and Sceolan at the roundabout on the Curragh [in Kildare]. There is wonder and power in our myths.

De Danann to me though just means great music from my childhood. I wouldn’t be one for believing in ancient gods that hid underground when the Celts arrived – it’s just not my kind of belief system.

Glorious Glendalough Photo credit: Annmarie Miles

I love the wonder and mystery that being a follower of Christ brings to my life. But in the run up to Christmas I find I have a lot more in common with the people that wandered this island in the days before pyramids.

It used to start too soon, but now Christmas is literally in the shops before Halloween. And this year the actual celebrating of Christmas was well underway by mid November. Real Christmas trees were bought and put up before Black Friday (don’t start me about the disregard for Thanksgiving!).

I’m just an old scrooge ruining the kids’ fun. Where’s the harm in celebrating Christmas early? I know how the criticism of my thoughts is expounded. Christians just hijacked pagan festivals….bla, bla, bla.

Sure they did.

God knew exactly how to speak to our hearts before he called Abram away from his home. He wrote it in our hearts that we would celebrate the light. And that’s what pagans did for thousands of years.

Not these modern pagans. They are too smart for that. They won’t fall for any Christian nonsense. So the tinsel and the trees go up in November and the celebrations begin.

But what is there to celebrate in November? The descent into darkness? In modern Ireland I can absolutely believe that a huge raft of our population would genuinely celebrate the encroaching darkness.

Allegedly, in Celtic tradition, druids would cut mistletoe and offer it as a blessing each solstice. And there is a myth that on the solstice each year the Oak King, in the Light corner, and the Holly in the Dark corner, would fight. And every year the Oak King of Light would be victorious.

That’s not bad for an ancient belief system…or any belief system. Darkness and Light in perpetual conflict, but Light always emerging victorious!

The ancients knew their stuff. They knew we didn’t want to surrender to the encroaching darkness. They knew we clung to the light and could never be sure there was a reason to celebrate until you knew for sure the light had triumphed. And to be sure to be sure, you’d wait a few days after the solstice before you’d celebrate – just to be sure!

And this is when I will celebrate – after the solstice, when The Light had entered the world.

Oh, and a Happy New Year!

Magnify Him!

At this time of year, everything is bigger.

If you’re happy and you love your family, then the wonder of family life is twice, ten, twenty times better. If you’re family life is difficult, it’s twice, ten, twenty times more difficult.

If you are with the one you love, then love is more wondrous.

If you’ve lost the one you love, the grief if more painful.

Whatever our life is like, Christmas puts tinsel and a set of flashing lights around it – whether we want it to or not.

Everything is bigger at Christmas.

26950364729_9c5db6589f_nOn  that first Christmas, God did the opposite. He took the immense expanse of his glory and, as the old hymn says, ‘contracted it to a span.’ The width, breath and depth of heaven’s King, made small enough to fit into the arms of a young mother. From the throne room of heaven, to the smelly mess of an animal feeding trough. Not a bauble in sight.

I heard someone say that maybe the reason why some who don’t normally come to church do come to Carol Services, is because the baby in the manger is no challenge.
The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay…

I’m all for tinsel and lights, cards and pressies –  I love it all.  But if everything is bigger at Christmas, then shouldn’t our faith be bigger too? We need to increase our worship, our prayer, our giving (!), our view of God.

We need to magnify him.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:3

Have a fab Christmas; I pray God’s blessing on you lovely readers for 2018. Thanks for your encouragement in 2017. May our view of God be bigger than ever next year.

A x

photo credit: marcoverch Geburt Christi, ein handgefertigtes Puppen-Set via photopin (license)