Christmas eve

Let's use the picture pastor illustrated in the sermon on Sunday. A house at night, crowded with people, loud music pumping, everyone laughing and having a good time celebrating Christmas. Chilling, snow and darkness outside, with Jesus knocking on the door and no one being able to hear him. Celebrating Jesus' birthday but not inviting him in.

You kind of wonder, what are non-Christians celebrating? A public holiday, a reason to get drunk and party? Santa and his reindeers? The mistletoe, the bright lights, the trees, stars, bells? I don't understand why people sing "Joy to the World" or "Silent Night" if they don't agree with the truth of the lyrics. It's easier to understand if I think about why festivals are celebrated at all. A time to exchange gifts, enjoy the colourful culture and traditions, gather with family and friends, to love and feel loved.

Christmas has changed for me over the years. I really enjoyed making the decoration, doing the activity sheets, the colourful hats and the performances of kids songs when I was in primary school. Oh yes, most of all... the gifts! In high school I loved the food (woohoo dinners and restaurants galore), Christmas shopping with mum's money, writing and receiving cards from my friends. Now? Not sure. Feels like there isn't all the pre Christmas preparation / hype, and that it just comes so suddenly.


I haven't had this problem for awhile. Before I used to confide in mum, then in (less than a handful of) close friends friends at different stages over the years. The other night I felt terribly lonely that I had no one to talk to about my day, my thoughts and feelings. How quickly I forget:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.

Something else I realised recently. I've heard the Christmas story many times but during today's sermon it was a little different. Wouldn't others think Mary's a liar or lunatic if she claimed she was conceived by the holy spirit? Pretty bad excuse for being pregnant. How did it affect her relationship with Joseph? Was he disappointed? Sad? As I am Mary in the Christmas play I asked jokingly whether I had to play the part of her giving birth. But for the first time I thought, oh, she had to give birth, probably painful and messy like any other birth. Surprisingly how much you can flesh out the story. Does that come with experience, does it come with maturity, or a loss of child-like innocence?

Letting go

I understood this before. When I missed my childhood I reminded myself that they can never return in the same way. Whether it's those holidays in China in 1998 with my cousins and family, the way reading novels could transport me to a magical world, or the fascination I found in computer games. My dead relatives cannot come back to life, my little cousin and I can never play like siblings again. Harry Potter can never fascinate me in the same way, I will never wish to go on adventures like the Secret Seven. I can't play make pretend games with my dolls and mice, or have so much fun with playgrounds or sand bombs again. My rats are gone, my dog can't walk with me to the beach again.

This year I often miss high school life. I miss the regular routine of going on the bus in the morning. I miss learning in a classroom environment, doing questions and playing games instead of merely listening to lectures. I miss my favourite subjects, miss having my teachers as mentors and friends. Studying with my friends in study lines, or late at night at the uni library; the food and laughter we shared every recess and lunch. Thinking of it makes me feel lonely now. But like childhood, it will never come back in the same way.

The same applies to friends. My best childhood friend and I will only contact each other a few times a year. I will only have memories of friends who I've lost contact with. My ex and I will never again share that same feeling when we see each other. Mum and I may never be so completely open to each other again. And my best friend in high school may never again share so much in common and understand me in quite the same way.

Even the most fun and enjoyable times end. Even the best friendships transform. We can only treasure those memories and be glad that we have them at all. I know I should enjoy and appreciate what I have now before it becomes something of the past. Hard to do though...

For you dear friend, I'm sorry I can't always be there for you in the same way. Here's a poem you will be quite familiar with:

Louise MacNeice

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told

We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

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