Archives For Christmas

An Advent Jigsaw Journey

December 6, 2017 — 2 Comments

A few years back we came across this 24 piece jigsaw by Juliet David (Author) & Pauline Siewert (Illustrator).

U.S: Amazon, AUS: Koorong 

Advent_JigsawPuzzle

At some point in November 2012, my wife and I got to talking about one of Ann Voskamp‘s family traditions. In a moment of inspiration, we wondered out-loud how cool it would be to use this jigsaw as an interactive advent calendar. Participating in Advent is another act of worship. It’s lived out daily. Hence, I’m not an admirer of chocolate filled cardboard Christmas countdown boxes, so this fit the bill.

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The general idea is not complex.

First: set up the jigsaw by numbering the back of each piece from one to twenty-four in a permanent marker, leaving the 24th piece with Jesus on it for Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day.

Second: match the date with each piece, daily.

Worth noting: after some rough starts, we decided  to create a basic roster on our calendar for December. That way each child was free to monitor it, knowing when and who got to have their turn. We found that this fostered a sense of community. Discussions each morning nearly always included reminding each other who’s turn it was on the day.

The end result is a historical scene that comes into view over the course of December. Empowering a very real experience of reverence, hope and anticipation. I’m a big fan of encouraging theological themes where relevant, this deeply entrenches us in what the Christ-Advent is all about.

Advent_JigsawPuzzleexample2012

We’ve done this alongside our Nutcracker Advent calendar every year since. Not just because the kids loved it, but because the process also reflects an interaction with the history surrounding the curious journey of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Angels, shepherds and wise-men.

I wouldn’t quite call this sacramental, but I would emphasise the significance of its symbolism and its potential as a very simple spiritual discipline.


19th-december-2016-023Here’s how a committee meeting between Herod and his advisers might sound, if such a meeting were to take place in a Western context today.


This baby foretold is a threat to us! We the undersigned hereby, agree with Herod’s genocide of all new born male Hebrew children. For by this child’s very existence in this world, all the power structures that surround him stand unprotected. He is a threat to our safe spaces, our glorious revolution and its leaders.

This nativity; the event of the Christ-child’s birth is nothing but a conservative conspiracy, comrades! It is violence against everything we stand for, which is surely justification enough for its violent suppression.

His existence as an outright repressive assault on everything we’ve built; everything we want people to believe in.

This blasphemy toward the State must not go unpunished. We’ve heard of the academics; how these so-called wise-men cheated you. Traitors to our glorious academic industrial complex, all of them. Therefore, any who refuse to give up this child’s location should be tried and tortured. Treated like the vermin, we say they are.

It’s their kind that hinders us from completely implementing the way of our glorious leaders. The way of our glorious revolution. We should continue to seek to replace structures we deem oppressive with our own. Tear them down. This child is a threat! He challenges us and our people.

‘State power must be exercised in all spheres, even in that of thought!’ [i] “For what we do is for the good of the people”, “we know what’s best for them better than they know themselves”.

Our collective’s survival rests on our ideas dominating the higher ground in the hearts of the people. Those who still have sway with the young, and yet betray us must be purged!

First of all, this birth represents heteronormative oppression and we must rally people to take up arms against it. He who says that God became man is guilty of hatred towards women. It is said that the husband, one carpenter by the name of Joseph, has wed this woman, Mary, under strange circumstances. As it has been told to us by reliable sources, this Joseph is said to have been given the task of caring for the child by Angels. If this gets out, it will reinforce the evils of patriarchy and it will perpetuate the lies that claim healthy child rearing at its best, involves both a man and a woman; a father and a mother.

This male Christ-child and the nativity scene itself, must be painted as an evil idea, constructed to further the chains of bigoted societal norms.

That is why this strange birth; these chosen people; these breeders, are an assault on our humanity.

At its heart is a war against phobic misrepresentations empowering archaic social constructs, designed to unhinge us from progress. For the betterment of humanity; for our evolution, we must have control and influence of hearts and minds, which as we’ve agreed, has to happen first with our educational institutions. Our science is the only science. What we say is scientific fact, is scientific fact. After-all, we fund our scientists well, and they’re loyalty to our agenda is off the charts.

Secondly, how dare this woman, Mary, choose to keep her unexpected pregnancy! Worst of all, she claims to have been chosen by God!

This must not go unpunished!

Their religious beliefs are phobic, sexist and irrational. So, we the committee applaud your decision.  We’ve even lined up celebrity endorsements to back us on how necessary and just this action is. This woman’s pregnancy and this prophecy is a farce, therefore this child’s life should be deemed not worthy of life.

If only she could’ve seen the freedom we offer her, the same freedom we’ve given all women, you wouldn’t have had to act as you have. Mary is to wear the blame for forcing your hand, dear Herod, not you.

Therefore, let nothing sway you. Your decision to wipe out males up to the age of two, will save us and make certain we have eliminated this threat to peace and our civil order. It is a surgical act of great compassion, liberating your people from impostors.

We are the victims here!

This young woman’s choice disempowers women. Her choice undermines our choice for women. If she gets away with it, what does our lack of response say about our pro-abortion policies and how will that negatively impact the millions in funding flowing into our abortion on demand factories? We must at all cost uphold our feminist ideals.

Social media polls suggest support for reinforcing or commitment to feminism. Killing every Hebrew male under the age of two, is the only way to reassure those people that, you Herod, and your council, remain committed to social justice programs that favour those we deem to be the oppressed, and eliminate those we deem to be the oppressors.

This nativity and its proclamation before everyday people is a threat to us. It will inspire ignorant non-conformists and counter cultural activists to disobedience. Worst of all it will inspire unity and solidarity amongst those we seek to control for their own benefit.

Make no mistake, this child will work against us! He will stand as a threat to our factories, our causes, and he will take away our ability to convince the people about how necessary it is for them to have us in power. Only you can be called King. There can be no other!

The raising up of anyone against the glorious progressive collective must be met with ridicule, shaming, or gaol time. This rise of a King of kings, must not be allowed to happen.

Thirdly, we want our ideas to reign. We want a peaceful society in harmony with the peaceful religion we’ve created and authorised. We want our people to be thankful for the live-life-our-way programs. We have no room for a Prince of peace, we have a religion of peace; there is no room for a “King of Kings” who commands us to live life His way.

This is what real violence looks like! It is violence towards the collective. Violence against the state!

All who disagree with this are traitors, haters and infidels! Anyone not thinking along with us, is against us.

We’re told that the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled, that this child is a saviour.

The quiet proclamation announcing the birth of a Jew; a baby boy from Judea is ethnocentric; it’s offensive to other races. It propagates the legitimacy of Israel’s existence,  and threatens our power on the world stage.

If not stopped, this manger baby will lead a revolution. This Christ-child is a threat to us all.

We must not stop showing a unified stand against this blatant display of contempt for our leadership. Our glorious revolution depends on it, and our glorious leaders command it to be so!

Organise the outrage! Send out the murderous minions and shut down all this unlicensed good cheer. The party must not be seen to approve of this unsanctioned movement. Stop the early rumblings of this pathetic prophetic Jesus movement.

How will we survive, if the people are encouraged to think for themselves?!

You must act. Remember all who oppose you are tyrants!

Long may our party, its leader and its ideas reign.


Notes:

This is a hypothetical response created for the purpose of highlighting how some in the West respond to Jesus Christ. How within that response rests a resistance to Him who still confronts us in our own positions of power.

For the recount of an historical response of someone in power to the birth of Jesus Christ, see Matthew 2:16-18

[i] Weil, S. 1936 Oppression & Liberty p.109 Routledge & Kegan Paul 1958.

rl2016-christmas-letter-with-borderInstead of writing letters to Santa Clause, we write to the Grinch. The aim is to persuade the Grinch to give Christmas a second chance.

This is our second year of using such a brilliant, practical lesson in persuasive writing. [i]

It’s quirky and fits well with our homeschooling style.

I had another focus for craft last year around this time, which meant that I had to leave out the part where we get to make a Grinch face.  This year, however, I needed a craft-filler with some level of serious coolness, so it was full steam ahead.

If, like us, you haven’t sold your kids the line about Santa Claus “bringing nice things, only if you do nice things”, this is a real alternative to the Dear Santa petitioning.

Let me follow that up by saying that I have no issue with who the modern myth of Santa is based on. Nikolaos of Myra did exist. He stood by his convictions, made some mistakes, such as punching a heretic or two and gave to help those who couldn’t help themselves.  He’s my kind of Saint; the John McClane of all Christian forebears.

What I stand opposed to is teaching kids something that will cause them to question their trust in us as parents later on in life. If we manipulated them with the Santa line, it’s only right that they’d wonder whether there were other areas where their parents weren’t being completely honest with them.

This is as psychologically abusive as any Christian parent misrepresenting the fear of God in an attempt to encourage a child to behave.

Santa Claus isn’t the problem, the lie perpetuated by the modern myth of Santa is.It’s the packaging, not necessarily the content of that packaging.

For parents, teachers and homeschoolers, speaking the truth in love should be of paramount importance. Even when there are family members who might get angry with us for not wanting to become co-conspirators in what is, in all bluntness, an outright Westernised, excessively commercial, lie.

This may seem heartless. It does to some in my own family. I ask, though, isn’t it heartless to raise kids to believe in a lie; to abandon them to figure out the truth for themselves? Isn’t it heartless to misconstrue the truth and distort reality? Not just this, but then consciously employ that lie to manipulate a child’s behaviour?

Coming from a highly dysfunctional family, I’m more accustomed to the effects of this. I acknowledge that this has left me with a slight bias. For reasons other than Santa Claus, I’ve not only experienced it, I’ve also witnessed the harm done by parents who don’t tell their children the truth and instead lead them to believe a lie; the impact of which is made worse when that lie is used to control a person’s behaviour. It doesn’t end well for either the parent or the child. [ii]

If I am going to be teaching my children about faith and reason, these need to be taught with integrity. Believing in the modern myth of Santa Claus isn’t an example of what a faith that seeks understanding looks like.

There is nothing heartless in teaching our kids the truth about Christmas; teaching them about Jesus Christ and the fuller meaning of Christmas is part of a rounded holistic education. The nativity alone confronts our inhospitable tendencies, doubts, weariness and need for rest.

In answer to the charge that I’m simply swapping belief in Santa Claus for belief in Jesus Christ, I would say, no. The context is totally different.

To begin with, I’m not teaching my kids about Jesus Christ for personal gain. It’s a gift given to them to benefit them. It’s not something I’m taking from them to benefit me. Secondly, my sources come from authorised, written historical recounts about a real historical person. Thirdly, in contradistinction to neo-Pelagianism and some well documented bad theology, I’m not teaching them that they’ll get nice things, if they do nice things.

There is no anxiety about whether Santa is happy or sad because of their behavior. There is joy in a deeper learning about the immanence of God, in Christ, who is Immanuel [God with us]. One extended by the fact that on the 25th December every year, most countries in the Western World and the church in the majority world, join together to mark what is generally considered to be the birthday of Jesus Christ.

It unifies ethnicity and draws together cultures. It opens doors and hearts to the good news, has even prompted a ceasefire, brought respite to busy workers and seen both, rich, poor, king and queen bow equally before the one who is, and was, and is to come.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
– (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

If choosing to do this makes me the Grinch or someone like a Dickensian Scrooge, so be it.

grinch-christmas-rl2016


Notes:

[i] How the Grinch Stole Christmas Persuasive Writing Project

[ii] Sir Walter Scott’s, ”O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive” from  ‘Marmion: The Battle‘ comes to mind.

Augustine’s Bells

December 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

Two bells Smaller Canvas project NEW Large 2 with JESUS Final

 

‘Rejoice, you just (Ps 33:1); it is the birthday of the Justifier. Rejoice, you who are weak and sick; it is the birthday of the Savior, the Healer. Rejoice, captives; it is the birthday of the Redeemer. Rejoice, slaves; it is the birthday of the one who makes you lords. Rejoice, free people; it is the birthday of the one who makes you free. Rejoice, all Christians; it is the birthday of Christ.’ [i]
– Augustine, On Christmas Day. Circa 412 A.D.

 


 

[i] Augustine, Saint; Doyle, D. & Hill, E. Essential Sermons  New City Press (p. 244).

 

Dear Mr.Grinch,

December 11, 2015 — 3 Comments

GrinchHere’s a pretty cool end-of-year activity for homeschool.

The general idea is to write a persuasive text trying to convince the Grinch that Christmas needn’t be dismal or not worth celebrating.

I only used the premise of this idea as a finisher for the day. There is, however, an activity packet available on Teachers Pay Teachers (link).

This is what our youngest came up with:

Border letter to Grinch Without name

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
(Jesus, Luke 18:16-17, ESV)

 

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

In darkened times there’s a lot more to a “Merry Christmas” or the celebration of it, than words and actions filled with empty sentiment. The origins of these words and the goodwill it proclaims, comes from a light not lit by human imagination. Nor are they the ignorant consolations of inappropriate and intoxicated merriment.

To say them is to act in true freedom; it is an act of gratitude, unity and prayer. An act that is transformed into a ‘revolt against the disorder of the world.’ (Karl Barth)

In deep grief and reflective desolation, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote these words:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
 The Wrong shall fail,
 The Right prevail,
 With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

This year and those to come, may we also continue to hear and recognise, what he heard and recognised.

Merry Christmas Greek Orthodox

 

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“…thank you for the Mercy Tree”

Having fronted the band Flyleaf for around ten years, leaving in 2012, Lacey Sturm (née Mosley) released her book, The Reason, in October this year. As with the devotion and profound gratitude Lacey communicates through her abilities as a songwriter and vocalist. Her testimony resonates.

Outside of glowing Amazon reviews, other appraisals of her book seem difficult to come by.

One quasi-critical review I did locate stated:

‘I salute her for her love for Jesus, her optimism and her bravery to share her past…I appreciate very much her willingness to bare her soul, praising God for his redemption and encouraging others to find peace in Jesus. However, I do feel that Lacey didn’t hold her mother accountable for her behavior by repeatedly saying she did the best she could. Bad choices and neglect should still be recognized as such.’
‘This book was so dreary and oppressive and sad that I just couldn’t finish it.’ (source)

The review is mixed with both reviewers stating that they got the point of her book, and hope it finds those who need to hear its message. However, they found it too difficult to finish. Citing the reasons as being heavy content and their own context. Fair enough.

In recent months, though, no critical review has made me want to read a book more than this has. My wife and I look forward to passing it between each other over Christmas, during the summer break.

‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my  beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’
(1 Corinthians 15:56-58)