Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Birthday Roses

Christmas Birthday Roses

“Yellow Roses” DS 2015

Mother’s birthday was on Christmas Day. She would have just turned 90 this year – about the same age as the queen. She has been gone a decade now but I will see her again one day. I felt impressed to buy some yellow roses in her honour this year to have at Christmas.

She too was a painter and a poet – a pioneer of sorts. Her favourite flowers were always yellow roses (yet in her old age she changed them to pink). Her own painting of yellow roses and blue delphiniums can be seen in the foyer of the spa at the historic Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, N.B. where she worked as a young woman after the war. The painting was donated to the hotel in her honour as one of New Brunswick’s own daughters.

Mother was one who loved God. She loved life, and children, and painting – probably in that order. In one’s ancestral tree there are particular people who shine. Their love blesses all who come after them. Mother is one of those whose children and grandchildren rise up and call her blessed (Book of Proverbs).

“Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” (Book of Ephesians)

This poem of Ann Weems reminds me of my childhood:

Giving

I gave my mother Evening in Paris

Sixty-five cents at the five-and-dime,

a Christmas Special.

Everybody knew – in the second grade –

that ladies longed for perfume.

I wanted to give her something special …

no Christmas chocolates she’d share with others,

no crayoned creation to hang in the kitchen,

no photo of me with a snuggle-tooth grin,

but a gift that no one else would use,

a present just for my mother.

I wrapped it in tissue

adorned with red reindeer

and wrote “I LOVE YOU!”

and signed it in cursive.

I thought it was the grandest gift anybody could give.

She thought so, too.

 

Painters and Poets

Snowflake Collage

“Snowflake Collage” DS

Christmas 2015

In my online reading, quite unexpectedly, I happened upon a contemporary thought-provoking painting of Christ’s birth: “The Nativity” by Brian Kershisnik. It became obvious from looking that so much of what is happening when we think again of the story is unseen. Another great artist said:

“My aim is always to get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting — to make the invisible visible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is, in fact, reality which forms the mystery of our existence.” Max Beckmann

We rely on the eyes of faith or what has been called the prompting of the Spirit – a feeling perhaps or a knowing that something is true without all the facts. I think again of how my Christmas celebration seems so far from what I would like it to be each year. My habit of direct prayer, however, is always answered. I address the risen Christ, the One who was born, lived, died, rose and now lives again interceding for us at the right hand of the Father (Book of Romans).

As I go about my preparations for the holidays, I pray to this alive Jesus for something wonderful to happen again this year. I pray that He would give me the best gift on His birthday – a paradox this – as the birthday person usually receives all of the gifts. But turning expectations upside down is nothing new for Jesus. I do rejoice in this. It gives me hope for change for those who struggle – and miracles can happen – especially at Christmas. The Creator of the universe came to be with us – Emmanuel. The gladness is real and spreading. It does not depend on me or my attitude.

“Nativity” painting by Brian Kershisnik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rKpxYjnPAM

 

This Year will be Different

by Ann Weems (1934-    )

Who among us does not have dream

that this year will be different?

Who among us does not intend to go

peacefully, leisurely, carefully to word Bethlehem,

for who among us likes to cope with the

commercialism of Christmas

which lures us to tinsel not only the tree

but also our hearts?

Who among us intends to get caught up in a tearing around

And wearing down?

Who among us does not long for:

gifts that give love?

shopping in serenity?

cards and presents sent off early?

long evenings by the fireside with those we love?

(the trimming devoid of any arguing about who’s going to hang

what where,

the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg mingling with the pine

scent of the tree,

and carols gently playing over our idyllic scene)

and the children! The children cheerfully talking about

giving instead of getting?

Who among us does not yearn for

Time for our hearts to ponder the Word of God?

Moments of kneeling and bursts of song?

The peace of quiet calm for our spirit’s journey?

 

This year we intend to follow the Star

instead of the crowd.

But, of course, we always do

intend the best.

(And sometimes best intentions tend to get the best of us!)

This year, when we find ourselves off the path again

(and we invariably will!),

let’s not add yet another stress to our Advent days,

that of “trying to do Christmas correctly”!

Instead let’s approach the birth of our Lord

with joyful abandon!

 

And this year

let’s do what Mary did and rejoice in God,

let’s do what Joseph did and listen to our dreams,

let’s do what the Wise Men did and praise and glorify God

for all we’ve seen and heard!

As for the Advent frantic pace, we don’t have time for that.

We’ll be too busy singing!

This year will be different!

 

Messy Christmas

“Are you ready to have the perfect Christmas? No? Don’t worry, you are in good company. The first Christmas was hardly perfect, so maybe the mess and muddle of an imperfect Christmas is the best situation in which to welcome.”  Roger Dawson SJ

As an oldest child in sibling order, I do not like messes.  I feel calm when things are clean, tidy and in place.  Paradoxically, as a collagist, a confusion of paper, paint and found objects are the tools of my trade.   Yet the experience of Christmas – that holy culmination of all that is good – is expected to be pretty close to perfection.

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Christmas Desk 2013 DS

I watched the movie “On Strike for Christmas” (2010) and it did my heart good.  Why not strike if we have to pull off the perfect Christmas by ourselves?   However, even with the family learning the lesson of helping and giving at Christmas, the ‘perfect’ Christmas came up short for me.

I have spent time this season oscillating between positively answering if I am ready for Christmas and the negative self-talk that goes with trying to bring order out of chaos.  I am ready.  My gifts were bought and wrapped early, the cards sent by (the soon to be extinct?) Canada Post or by e-cards.    The house is as clean as it gets.  Food is bought. Image

 

Christmas ‘Tree’ 2013 DS

Yet my complaints are there.  My ‘tree’ is not a tree but a bouquet of branches easy to assemble.  The beautiful white snow for Christmas Eve is now replaced with slush.  People are not coming on the right days.  Some people are missing.  Someone sneezed on me yesterday.  I could go on.

Over the month of December I told the story of Mary in the workshops.  I read and discussed from the book of Luke.  My presentation was enriched by having watched the movie “Mary” (Maria di Nazaret 2010) on Netflix.  Mary, on close inspection, and contrary to the beauty of Christmas plays, must have had a very messy Christmas.

Things were definitely not as they ‘should’ have been.  First of all, even though she was from a good family with a godly upbringing, she became pregnant without being married.  Many women throughout history can attest to the grave difficulties that can bring.  Case in point is the story of “Philomena” now playing in a theatre near you. 

Mary had to face her fiancée, her family and her community alone.  Mary could have been sent away or even stoned to death in that ancient culture.  I am not sure that her reputation ever recovered.

Mary needed to travel on a donkey to a foreign country when she was almost due to deliver her child.  (I can remember how painful a bumpy car ride was for me when I was pregnant.)  The place where they thought they could stay turned them away in their hour of need.

 All of this was discussed by the women in the December “Contemplation and Christmas Collage” workshop series.  They remembered their own difficulties and fears in pregnancy and childbirth.  They spoke that final workshop.  One precious woman seated next to me ‘sang’ the requested carols with only sounds.  That touched me and in a way validated my being there.

(Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.) 

Before I left the collage workshop that last day we also recalled how the messiness of the First Christmas was energized by the Holy Spirit into a collage of great love come down.  “God with us – Emmanuel” was his name.  Mary’s story was filled with messages from angels.  God’s provision kept her calm in her difficulties.  The presence of Jesus brought the true meaning of Christmas.  Only God’s order could make sense of that chaos.

It is always so.  The messy Christmas that we all more or less experience is only truly made peaceful by not just the story of ‘God with us’ but by God’s very presence.  May we notice the difference in our celebrations and in our disappointments that not being alone brings in Christmas 2013.  A collage of love right now sounds good.

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Christmas Still Life 2013 DS