Archives: Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? #16
- Holiday Magic: The Gift of Faith
- Christmas - It's All About Gifts!
- A Latin American Christmas Creed
- In the Midst of Distraction
- LET'S GET OFF THE CHRISTMAS ROLLER-COASTER
- No Cost Gifts
Although the following items were not selected for publication in the Advent-Christmas family booklet "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?" they are worthy to be shared.
If you publish any of these, please give credit to the author and SimpleLivingWorks.org."
The holidays, life invites you to go deeper. This is the season of the celebration of many faith traditions. It is a time of lengthened darkness and drop in temperatures, when we stay closer to our homes. And it's a festival of light and joyful activities. St. Nicholas presents himself as a role model of joyful giving.
I do a program called "Holiday Magic: Being St. Nicholas for yourself and Joy to Your World." It's about being realistic with our demands on ourselves. It's about balance and considering what is important to you. It's about uncovering what you need and bringing it into your life. Have you thought about choosing to receive a special gift for yourself this year? I invite you to reflect on the question: "How can I bring into my life the gift of Faith? As a well being coach I highly recommend it as being good for your health!
There is a biology to believing. Herbert Benson, MD, one of the founders of the Harvard Deaconess Mind Body Medical Institute, has a book called Timeless Healing, where he describes his search and what he found as the base of healing in all times and all cultures. Dr. Benson says we are in some profound way "wired for God." As this is the case, our disconnection from our higher power may be the most distressing of all. When we start to reconnect, listen to our intuitive wisdom, the still small voice within us, it will let us know what we need. Dr. Benson recommends eliciting the relaxation response twice a day for 10 minutes. And what he has found is that his patients become more spiritual. "People who reported increased spirituality after eliciting the relaxation response described two things about the experience: 1) the presence of an energy, a force, a power - God - that was beyond themselves, and 2) this presence felt close to them. And it was the people who "felt this presence" who noted the greatest medical benefits." (p. 157)
Besides eliciting the Relaxation Response and all the benefits that it has, this is what we seek - to be plugged into the transcendent, our God. We may be getting messages to change but if we don't listen, it doesn't help us.
Meditation allows us to listen and remember wellness, our wholeness. Not acting in accord with our spiritual ideals is highly distressing.
Dale Matthews is a doctor, medical-school professor, clinical researcher and author of the book The Faith Factor. He says "I now routinely ask my patients about the role of faith in their lives, and I tell them what many clinical studies clearly show - that regular attendance at church or synagogue is linked with better physical and mental health, greater life satisfaction, enhanced recovery from illness and even increased life expectancy." (p. 7) In Timeless Healing Benson adds, "Across the board, in groups of different ages, ethnicities, and religions, among patients with very different diseases and conditions, religious commitment brings with it a lifetime of benefits." (p. 174)
I wrote an article about Hampton resident Margo LaPerle. She found a religious medal, picked it up and heard a voice, "It's time to come home." Her initial response was "I can't deal with this today." She finally listened. Margo spoke to me of her conversion experience, "Before I was so stressed and anxious and now I give it to God. It may sound corny but it's the simple truth of the whole thing. It really is so simple, that's what people don't understand, it's so simple." If you know Margo, you can see she's found something.
In my faith I celebrate Christmas. Christmas has always been about gifts, those that can be ours if we are willing to receive them. Faith is one of them. In consideration of your gift giving this year. Consider the gift of faith for yourself this season - how you might find, embrace or enter it more fully. It will be a gift to yourself and to others around you.
In your believing, you don't need to believe me, go talk to Margo. Better yet, just test it out for yourself.
Blessings to you and your families.
The gift of Love in its many packages
The Father who gave His Son, the Son who said "I will"
The gift of "yes" from an unwed teenage girl
The young man who heard voices and complied.
Were these things they wanted to do?
Or, because they were asked, they were willing to obey the call?
When in my life have I heard a request?
Am I willing to submit, to give the gift of an answer "yes"?
The innkeeper had no room, but he found a place anyway.
God is willing to go where we make room for Him.
Will I send Him away or out in the stable with the animals?
Or is He welcomed? What place do I offer Him in my life?
The Angels invite us with trumpets to "come and see."
The shepherds left their burdens and followed the summons.
Am I willing to put down my heaviness and run to Him?
And believe in and enter the hope and promise they saw?
Music, Comfort, Joy, Peace, Goodwill from Angels
The gift of wonder and patient following, not knowing where,
And courageous non-compliance to a king from other Kings
To follow a star and be generous to a baby.
Could I? Would I?
Am I willing to be still in this season of bustle?
To put aside the shopping, wrapping, and cooking?
Just to reflect on the questions, while bathed in the lights from the tree?
Just what is it that God is asking of Me? And what do I reply?
Am I willing to Be the Gift?
Hello! I am the Hunger Action Enabler in the Presbytery of Philadelphia, Presbyterian Church (USA). One of the pastors in our Presbytery, Frank Amalfitano at Central Presbyterian Church in Norristown, sent out these Christmas resources to other pastors. I asked him what he thought of sending them to you, and he said I could do so. He does not have sources of the material. I hope you will consider them helpful. --Rev. Schaunel Steinnagel
I believe in Jesus Christ and in the power of the gospel, begun in Bethlehem.
I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a small village,
of whose coming shepherds saw the sign,
and for whom there was no room at the inn.
I believe in the one whose life changed the course of history,
over whom the rulers of the earth had no power,
and who was not understood by the proud.
I believe in the one to whom the oppressed, the discouraged, the afflicted, the sick, the blind, the injured gave welcome, and accept as Lord and Savior.
I believe in the one who ... with love ... changed the heart of the proud
and with his life showed that it is better to serve than to be served,
and that the greatest joy is giving your life for others.
I believe in peace, which is not the absence of war,
but justice among all people and nations and love among all.
I believe in reconciliation, forgiveness,
and the transforming power of the gospel.
I believe that Christmas is strength and power,
and that this world can change
if with humility and faith we kneel before the manger.
I believe that I must be the first one to do so.
This story was shared on Spirit Talk, the email-based discussion group for churches using our new curriculum, Seasons of the Spirit. I think it is a wonderful meditation, and I've used it to open several church committee meetings this month. The prayer tacked on the end is one I wrote, as I used this as an opening meditation.
--Cheryl Perry, Wood Lake Books, BC, Canada, publisher of The Alternative Wedding Book, Simplify & Celebrate and Treasury of Celebrations.
Our Live Nativity and Community Christmas Tree Lighting, held on our church's front yard, coincided with the discovery of a heating oil spill in our furnace room. As Kings and shepherds scurried around the church, hiding in corners and rooms free from fumes to dress for the event; fireman, hazard material teams and contractors roamed the building and grounds with walkie-talkies.
We found ourselves asking the Fire Marshall, "could you move the truck from in front of the crèche?" Once accessible, the Nativity participants processed out into the freezing cold night. Needless to say, the Christmas crowd was somewhat distracted from the advertised events, and the hushed serenity we traditionally try to present with our scene was beyond our grasp. While our Nativity participants dutifully remained in place, their demeanor was one of humor and conversation.
As Director of the event, I was somewhat disheartened that our scene had been "ruined." But that was only until the following Sunday when Andy (who played Joseph at the Live Nativity) shared a story with me.
It seems that at the end of the evening, when the relieved and partially frozen participants were told it was time to return to the church, the baby Jesus doll was almost left behind; lost in the hasty retreat. At the last moment, "Joseph" realized the error and ran back to rescue the baby. When he scooped up the doll and turned to catch up with the processional, he was surprised by a crowd that started to form around him. Apparently, the non-traditional sight of Joseph holding the baby was finally enough to draw attention away from the flashing lights of fire trucks. Joseph stood holding the baby Jesus as cameras flashed all around them.
Andy's story transformed my previously held vision of this year's Live Nativity. Far from being ruined, our Nativity was transformed to another vision of those days in Bethlehem when our Lord and Savior lay in the hay. Was Mary the only one blessed to hold Jesus in her arms? Did visitors from near and far stand in silence or animated conversation while visiting the stable? In busy Bethlehem, with a newborn baby, was there even a moment of hushed silence? Maybe not! The real miracle may have been that despite the distractions, the birth of our Lord and Savior was not lost in the confusion.
Andy's story has the power to transform Christmas for all of us this year. Despite all of the distractions we may encounter, we can be sure that the birth of our Lord and Savior will not be lost in the confusion! We can be sure that even if we cannot create the hushed silence of our traditional Nativity, the Christ child will find a way into our hearts - just as the Christ child found a way into the arms of Joseph.
- story by Gloria Talbot, First Congregational, East Longmeadow, CT
Prayer: Dear God, in this busy Advent season, help us to pause in our rushing, our preparations for the "perfect" Christmas, to remember that the first Christmas was not perfect either. Help us to leave room to welcome the Christ into our lives, so that we might be transformed. Amen.
Synopsis: One act skit where three friends meet for coffee and discuss better ways to celebrate the holidays.
Time: 5-8 minutes
Characters: 1 - Anne - the calm collected one
2 - Susan - the humorous but still frantic one
3 - Tracy - the late and very frantic one
Props: Tall table and stools (or just tall table)
3 coffee cups ( preferably Christmas mugs or Starbucks cups)
Shopping bags as follows: (each woman is to look progressively more indulgent)
1 for Anne - moderately full
4 for Susan - with tissue paper and boxes spilling over the top
6-8 for Tracy - full to overflowing, just barely able to handle them
Attire: (again, each character visually progresses from simple/calm looking to bulky and more and more AWRY)
Anne -jeans/pants, turtleneck, bright blazer or holiday sweater simple and festive but modest with some earrings and maybe a necklace.
Susan -all of the above plus extra jacket and sweater, some bigger holiday Costume jewelry and a scarf - hair with extras in it like headband and a bit frazzled looking.
Tracy -all of the above and more - much more harried and frazzled looking, more layers, but not trashy.
Set: Coffee Shop at a table. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" or "It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas" plays in background.
Anne already seated, sipping coffee. Calmly, patiently waiting.
Before Action: 3 friends gather to meet for a casual holiday time coffee break, and two of them have been frantically shopping before arriving.
Action: Susan rushes in -- shopping bags flying, scarf coming unwound from neck. Harried and little frantic and hair slightly jumbled. (Note: the visual contrast between two is very clear).
ANNE: Susan over here! (waves) (note: music comes down lights brighter)
SUSAN: Hey Anne! Wow! Its good to see your face! The Malls are CRA-AZY!
A: (knowingly) Uh huh . . .
S: Yeah! I never dreamed that this holiday coffee would be the only break I'd get all month!
A: (smiles) Y'know, I look forward to this tradition with you and Tracy more and more each year!
S: I know what you mean! But, seems like I just get busier and busier every Christmas! (Pauses) But Anne, -- ( looks appreciatively at her and smiles) YOU look so calm and collected! How DO you DO it?
A: Well, I . . .
(Cell phone rings. Anne retrieves phone from her purse.)
A: (Nods to Susan) It might be Tracey . . . Hello? (pause - then responds in phone) Hey Tracy! (pause) 20 minutes? Okay. Oh yeah -- the lines ARE really bad. (Susan and Anne nod knowingly at one another)(pause) I know . . . I know. (pause) Hey, don't worry - Susan just got here! We' re just talking . . Of course we'll wait for you! Take care. See you in a few minutes.
(Hangs up and puts phone back in bag.)
S: Late as usual, (pause) right?
A: And STRE-E-E-S-S-SED OUT!! She's only half way through her "LIST".
S: I know that feeling!! It's the "Secret Santa Squeeze" - pressure, Pressure, PRESSURE!! Why do we DO this to ourselves? (pause)
But Anne you're so calm! Give me a clue.
(pause and looks at her slyly)
Hmmmm . (guessing). . You're done, right?
A: Well . . . actually . . . (trying to squeeze in the words as Susan rushes on...)
S: HA! I knew it you're Done! (with emphasis) I KNEW IT! I HATE YOU! (Laughs) You finished in July, right? (Laughs)
A: (Ha Ha) NOOOO! I'm not that obsessive. Jay and I just decided we were NUTS in December. And the kids were cranky.. So - WE QUIT!
S: QUIT?? I don't get it. Quit -- what? ? ?
A: (Spells it out) Q - U - I - T -- QUIT! The stress, the crowds, and the commercialism -- we just decided to jump off the - the - (emphatically like she just thought of it) "The Christmas Roller Coaster!"
S: What d'ya mean? How?
A: Well (pauses), we made a list of what was really important to us - the things that we really wanted to do. It started when a friend gave me this card about the 4 things kids really want for Christmas (starts digging around in her purse to find it)
S: (Humorously - while waiting for her to find it -- counts on her fingers with a smile) Oh Yeah, sure like . . (first finger) GIFTS -- (dramatically draws out each word )
(second finger) PRESENTS
(third finger) GIFTS and (fourth finger) MORE PRESENTS !!! Right?
(laughing sarcastically but lightly)
A: Ha Ha! Nooooo - You'll be really surprised. Oh here it is! (pulls a card out of her wallet) Ready? (clears her throat and says with distinguished, firm tone) Number One: "A relaxed and loving time with the family."
S: Okay (pauses). . .Ill buy that (starts holding up her fingers again, counting off and following along)
A: Number Two: "Realistic expectations about gifts. . . . "
S: (smirks, but holds up second finger) Yeee-aaah, right! No more than 20 gifts per child!
(Anne shoots her a withering look) Oh . .yeah, well I guess that setting the limit IS up to us . . .
A: And don't forget they see the kinds of toys you put on YOUR list too!
S: Oh yeah! . . . They See Everything . . (with emphasis and resignation)
A: And, Number Three: (Susan puts up 3rd finger and continues to listen intently to Anne.) "An evenly paced holiday season."
S: Hmmmmm (still holding up fingers for each one) that's one I need to work on myself, ... just too many parties . . .
A: And now, the Fourth and final item that kids really want for Christmas is....
(drawing it out - delivered a la "David Letterman" style as Susan gives a drum roll on the table)
S: Taaaa Daaaaa . . . . .
A: "RELIABLE FAMILY TRADITIONS!"
S: Reliable?? Like, the same old ones every year?
A: No, not really. I think its related to the first idea - that children want to know that special family times WILL happen and that we CAN CHOOSE those activities together. (Lays the card down on table during these lines.)
S: Hmmm . . .. you mean I don't HAVE to spend hours making Aunt Sarah's watermelon rind pickles that nobody ever touches?
A: Right! We dropped all that stuff (hand gesture of swiping it all aside) -- along with spending hours fighting crowds at the Malls.
A: Right! So now our goal is to spend less time stressing, and spend more time focusing on (said ending in an upward questioning tone) the "Reason for the Season"?
S: You mean . . . (meaningful pause) - JESUS!?
A: Exactly! (pauses) After all, that IS what it's all about! So, now we make our own advent calendar and we read the Christmas story every year. The kids LOVE decorating the tree and setting up our nativity scene - so we make sure to set aside one Sunday just to do that together.
S: That sounds great . . .(slowly the contrast is dawning on her) Y'know, . . . the last few years we've just been throwing our tree together or I've done it myself!. . . (remembering- pausing) Hmmmm . . . Now that I think about it . . . Its decorating the Christmas tree that I remember most from growing up ...
A: And the carols . . . and the candlelight service at church . . .
S: (Nods in agreement) Exactly! But what do you do about school and work? (a bit exasperated) You know....(slang tone) the "cupcakes" and the "Christmas cheer"?
A: No more piling up parties. Sometimes I just say "No" to the party, but choose a few to deliver my regrets to in person, (slight pause -- as if thinking) sometimes along with some of the families' handmade Christmas goodies.
S: Hmmm . . I get it! That gets a holiday visit in and doesn't hurt feelings . . .
A: Now you're catching on . . .
S: But what about your Christmas card list? For me, that's a REAL killer!
A: We use the 3 Year Rule.
S: Huh? What's that?
A: Just make it EASIER! Either send out your cards every third Christmas, OR just send one third of your list each year!
S: Wow!!! (pause) No wonder you're so calm! You've cut the holiday stress in half!
A: And the bills too! But even better -- now Christmas isn't just another WOMEN'S holiday where I'm doing EVERYTHING. Now Jay and the kids are involved too.
S: Okay -- I'm in! Maybe I can get off this "Christmas Roller Coaster" too! (looks up beyond Anne's shoulder) Hey, there's Tracy! (waves at her)
A: Hey Girl! (waves and motions toward them) Over here! (Anne and Susan make room for her in the middle chair.)
TRACY RUSHES IN. 4 BAGS IN EACH HAND STUFFED. JACKET, SWEATER, SCARF AND HAIR FLYING --LOTS OF COSTUME CHRISTMAS type JEWELRY.
TRACY: (plops down in chair arms and bags flying - very self-absorbed emphatic, head gestures)
Whew! My feet are killing me! It's CRAZY out there! CRA-A-AZY!!
ANN & SUSAN (TOGETHER): (same tone as Anne at beginning, friendly but calm): Uh huh!!
ANNE: It's great to see you! We've been waiting to . . .
TRACY: (interrupts breathlessly) Not waiting too long, I hope?
SUSAN: No- - just long enough for Anne to tell me some of her serenity secrets . . .
T: You do look great, Anne! So relaxed! How DO you DO IT? (looks back and forth between Anne and Susan, one hand up, the other hand down with dramatic, big gestures)
Between the kids, and (looks at Anne) the shopping, (looks back at Susan) the relatives (looks back at Anne other hand out and down, etc.), the PARTIES (looks at Susan) - everything's so UP and DOWN!!! I always feel like a TOTAL MANIAC by the time I get here! (looks back at Anne) Don't you?
A: Nope. (delivered calmly and firmly, but with relief) I QUIT!
T: (perplexed) W H A A A T ?
S: Yeah! (with interest and they all start drawing together a little to hear each other) Listen to this - Anne's jumped off the Christmas Roller Coaster! (Pause) . . And WE can too!
T: Really? - Tell me how - and Quick!
(All three lean together to start chatting in silent lip sync. Anne grabs the card off the table, like she's going to start to explain and then they freeze. The lights go down and "Joy to the World" plays in back ground.)
Written by K. DiAn Kempf Jones/Nov 2000 - inspired by the book "Unplug the Christmas Machine"
AUDIO version in ArchivesAV.
by Richard L. Haid, , Ph.D., PCC, Adult Mentor
This Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa season offers a unique opportunity to create and give "no cost" gifts as you review the purpose of Christmas and how you celebrate it. For many the Christmas season is not as joyous as they would like it to be. They may have less financial resources and be more cautious about using credit, and feel less abundant about life in general. In the process of discovering your "no cost" gifts and rethinking how you want to celebrate Christmas, you may discover new skills and interests in the process.
What are examples of "no cost" gifts?
1. Gifts of Experience:
Taking others to see Christmas lights, Christmas Eve services, relatives, museums. Encourage and listen to others tell about their favorite Christmas experiences and help them to write about it.
Your gift possibilities: ______________________________________________________________________________________
2. Gifts You Have Created or Recycled:
Books, CDs, and videos from the library, recycled gifts or from your possessions, crafts from nature, wood carving, paintings, personalized screen savers, and your baked treats. Write booklets of your favorite recipes, stories, jokes, life experiences, wisdom, and poetry.
Your gift possibilities:
3. Other Kinds of Gifts such as back, foot rubs, breakfast in bed, car washing, or garage cleaning:
Your gift possibilities:
Ways that you may modify, and yet enhance your Christmas celebration this year:
Gifts of Ourselves Certificate
(several certificates could be assembled into a coupon book)
For Someone Special
This certificate entitles _________________________
This Christmas we were in CT with our daughter and her family. We visited with their next door neighbor with whom I talked about "Unplugging." They then took me into their living room and showed me their "Christmas Tree" which was a manger scene with the characters. They didn't have to spend money on a tree and after all, the scene is what Christmas is all about anyway.
Richard L. Dick HaidFor information on Dick's Christmas teleconferences, click Volunteers in top menu, then Activities to Try, scroll to #9.
This page last updated 20 October 2012
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