Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Week and The Babe In The Manger

Purple Wrapper
Sticky messes (as opposed to sticky date toffee puddings and strawberry messes) are: leaving little lavender ribbon-wrapped packages of toffees on the laptop in the car on a grandly sunny Christmas morn in Singapore.
Christmas Lightup Meatballs
Christmas on Mondays means that celebrations start, properly, assiduously, like Letitia Baldridge's star student with set pearls, a week prior, with many roasted turkeys stuffed with all manner of stuffing and cranberry sauce and gravy, chardonnay, many carvings of roast beef and lamb and dollops of mint sauce, pinot noir, meatballs and meeting up with old friends, pasta and passing presents, logcakes and lolling about, laughing, natgeog preaching involving little plastic trees and reindeer and half-eaten logcakes, chocolate fondues and champagne, cheesecakes, fruit tarts, Christmas letters with updates on weddings, funerals, engagements, elopements, births and same-old same-olds, mincepies, botrytis semillion and brown paper packages tied up with string, pine trees and baubles, fruitcake, rescuing toddlers from pine trees and baubles and flashing fairy lights, gravlax and gathering around pianos and singing spoofing carols till hapless pianists are blinded by tears and helpless giggling...(at one of the houses, there was also something about a Christian workout video but no one probed too far)
L's Pressie Kid at Christmas Tree
...so on Christmas eve, the best place to be is with good friends at the nice-and-quiet (until it came upon the midnight clear, those glorious sparklers of old, and screaming and bending near the earth to spray each other with cans of streamers (until cellphones beep with festive greetings to all)) of km8...

...so on Christmas morning, there is crawling out of bed to put out Christmas presents and rescuing the newly-anointed laptop, and then there is crawling back under the covers before a round of parties and carolling later and then more piano/guitar karaoke (complete with nationalistic songs and a mock fly-past) until it is past midnight and the hostess calls time.
...ah but later, there is a fresh pot of tea, mincepies and brandy butter, and the unwrapping of a little pile of presents and sinking into the heftiest: Neil Gaiman's "The Absolute Sandman, Volume 1".

As the onion said to the tomato after the tomato was run over by a truck, so I said to sleep,"Catch-up! Catch-up!"

The Babe in the Manger
Christians know that Christmas isn't just a festive holiday or a season (in Asia, I suppose, the season is monsoon). Regardless of Desmond Morris' "Christmas Traditions" and the historicity (as the carollers at the back of the pack were discussing) of the date of Jesus' birth, Christmas is really about who the babe in the manger was.

If he was yet another cute kid born in underprivileged circumstances, bullied by the heartless bourgeois class, the world easily sympathises. If this was the beginnings of power or genius, the world loves stories of a humble person's rise to greatness.

But the truth is neither so romantic nor sentimental. We cannot just smile benignly, make coo-ing noises and move on. The babe in the manger is no less than God incarnate.
He, through whom time was made, was made in time; and He, older by eternity that the world itself, was younger in age than many of His servants in the world; He, who made man, was made man; He was given existence by a mother whom He brought into existence; He was carried in hands which He formed; He nursed at breasts which He filled; He cried like a babe in the manger in speechless infancy - this Word without which human eloquence is speechless! (Augustine of Hippo, Sermon on Christmas)
The babe is fully God and fully man, and the fully God bit is a scary thing for a sinful world.

It used to be a tradition in our house that once a year, on Christmas Day, because the walls were like cardboard in England, I who lived in the garret would throw open the windows and turn up the volume on Handel's "Messiah". People were offended. Not by the noise, but by the message. What terrible things to say on this joyous occasion! For Handel's "Messiah" isn't all Hallelujah Chorus: the libretto gives us a great Bible overview, from the promises of God through the prophets of old, to the fulfilment of prophecy, to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We cannot separate the babe in the manger from Jesus who rebuked the Pharisees; who made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle and scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (John 2:15); who cursed the fig tree; who claimed that he alone was the Way, the Truth, the Life and no one could be saved except through him; who died bloodied on the cross and rose again from the dead in 3 days; who now sits at the right hand of the Father, ready to judge the world (Acts 2:33, 1 Peter 4:5); who is portrayed in Revelation 19 as the avenger of God's wrath, with eyes like blazing fire and robes dipped in blood. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.
...who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire. (Malachi 3:2)
Jesus' birth is to be greeted with both rejoicing and fear. It is the birth of a saviour who will save us from the penalty of our sins and it is also the birth of he who will judge the guilty world.

So why do you celebrate Christmas, oh you who do not yet live under the rule of Christ? Do you not know that your rebellion has already marked you for death? Fear the babe in the manger, tremble at the incarnation of God made man, for his birth (and death and resurrection) means that the world is one step closer to the day when all will be judged, both living and dead, great and small: those who repented of their rebellion against God and trusted in Jesus and his death and resurrection to save them, to everlasting life; and those who had not, to everlasting death where there will be terrible weeping and gnashing of teeth.

If all peoples everywhere could truly celebrate Christmas, and there is much we should do to so assist them...

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At December 27, 2006 6:17 pm , Anonymous Itchy Fingers said...

As the onion said to the tomato after the tomato was run over by a truck, so I said to sleep,"Catch-up! Catch-up!"


*tickles Shadow viciously*


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