Sunday, December 27, 2009

Grandchildren Sleepover and Painting Lesson

This is Boxing Day evening sleep over for five grandchildren with Nana and Papa.
One of the activities was a painting lesson with Papa(Grandpa)- me. All five around the kitchen island with watercolour paper in front of them. We each drew pictures with graphite first and then painted them in.

It takes a Grandma to set this up and pull it off. I would never have the nerve or the patience. But to my amazement, three boy cousins in one bedroom and two female cousins in another large bed and bedroom, went to sleep without hesitation and slept through the night. This morning two boys woke early and I cuddled them in a blanket to watch cartoons, then we had cereal and waited for the others. Grandma sewed the pajamas for all of them.

A Family Shot twelve years apart. A few Additions and Subtractions.

These two photos are not only representative of how time passes but what transpires during the passage of time. And they are also a testament to what truly matters in life and particularly during the Christmas season. The Loving relationships between people and within family mean so much.

Here is a twelve year old picture of Christine and me and our children, Cari and her husband Tim, and Jeff and his girlfriend Gina. With us are my parents, Ed and Tina Unruh, both of whom have passed away since then. They were however, well enough to be at both of our children's weddings.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

12 Days Before or After Christmas? and spiritual significance?

Twelve Days of Christmas

What is often not understood is that The Twelve Days Of Christmas which we now customarily celebrate as preceding Christmas day, really begin on Christmas day December 25 and proceed until January 5 the day before the twelfth day, the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. For instance, the BC Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport this year promoted the Twelve Days of Christmas from December 13 to December 24 in Robson Square with ice skating at GE, hot chocolate, visits from Santa Claus, entertainment and children’s craft activities.

In actual fact the Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning on Christmas Day (25 December). This period has been known as Christmastide. The Twelfth night marked the end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night itself was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as setting for one of his most famous stage plays, titled Twelfth Night.

Although the song by this name ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ was first published in England in 1780, the textual evidence may indicate the song is of French origin and this popular Christmas carol contains increasingly grandiose gifts which ‘my true love sent to me’ over a twelve day span of Christmastide: 12 Drummers Drumming, 11 Pipers Piping, 10 Lords a-Leaping, 9 Ladies Dancing, 8 Maids a-Milking, 7 Swans a-Swimming, 6 Geese a-Laying, 5 Gold Rings, 4 Colly Birds (often given as "Calling Birds"), 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The song itself has often been viewed as a nonsense song for children. In fact, there have been numerous parodies of the song through the years. Interestingly, as early as the 16th century there were implications of spirituality for the song, that is that there were hidden references to basic Christian tenets of faith. The latter notion suggests that this is a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters so each gift refers to some aspect of Christian faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, and Three French Hens are the Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and Nine Ladies Dancing are the nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.(Galatians 5:22). I am sorry but this effort strikes me as improbable, even comedic. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical and logical discrepancies. There is no substantive evidence available either way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

George Frederick Handel’s famed oratorio called 'Messiah'


Early each December in our home, our cherished CD’s of George Frederick Handel’s famed oratorio called Messiah are dropped into the CD player and we begin to listen to the words of scripture set to some of the finest music ever composed.

I credit two friends of ours with beginning that tradition for us thirty years ago. For a stretch of nine years, a couple of elderly women in my Toronto church spoiled Christine and me each December. Their Christmas gift to us was to take us to Ed’s downtown restaurant just across from the Roy Thompson Hall where following dinner we would enjoy the magnificent sounds of the Toronto Symphony and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir as they performed Handel’s Messiah.

Handel’s Messiah is a choral oratorio, not an opera, determined by the fact that the choir plays the major role. Handel’s Messiah is by far the most popular of all choral literature and while I know oratorio is not everyone’s choice of music you have all been exposed to some music from the Messiah, even if only a perverted Hallelujah chorus used offensively in Bugs Bunny cartoons or toilet tissue advertisements. The music is exquisite but the best part is the text. It’s Biblical. For the child of God the text is enough to make one shake and tremble in admiration of God.

Handel’s Messiah is a reflective commentary on God’s Promise, His Incarnation, His Passion and His Resurrection. With most sacred oratorios, while the themes may be biblical, they do not use Biblical texts. The Messiah does, skillfully, brilliantly, movingly. Today I will read you the text of the first part and preach on a small section of the scripture I quote. There are three parts. I was guest preacher this past Sunday morning at Aldergrove Baptist Church and I chose to preach from Isaiah 40:1-5 which contains the opening words of Part One. The text of Messiah is taken from the King James version of the Bible.

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

I told the folk there that if they like what they hear they can invite me back around Easter and I can read to them the second part from Handel’s Messiah and preach a message from the text it uses. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Then if they are up to it, they can invite me as summer begins and I will read to them the text from the third part which is such an encouraging and triumphant reminder of our hope. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” For now is Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep.” How’s that for inviting oneself.

Listen to conductor Trevor Pinnock introduce "Comfort, Comfort ye My People," and then tenor Kurt Streit singing this 3:37 min section.

Photo credit for Roy Thompson Hall: Cliff Spice

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas is Upon Us

It's the 6th of December 2009 and the Christmas season is here. Today at church Christine and I were part of an ensemble that sang several selections from Handel's Messiah and that was a delight for us, and it sounded like others were thrilled to listen. Annually in our home the Messiah oratorio has been part of our celebration of the season. Christmas is a season of lights. Our pastor spoke about darkness and light. World news is frequently characterized by dark news bites much as it was in Jesus' day. He arrived as the light of the world. He pierces the darkness. Since then, all who follow him are instructed to serve as light and to insure that the light is not concealed in any way. Christine and I enjoyed a dinner at the Lampliter restaurant in Fort Langley and then in the afternoon, my two sons, one blood and the other in law, assisted me, virtually did it for me, that is, helped me set up our Christmas Tree. We purchased this 14 foot tree last Saturday an an dinner/auction for a Christian school. This is a tall and heavy tree and now it is in our living room with lights up and down and ornaments to come. Tomorrow we have friends coming over for a dinner. After the tree set up, we stopped at Tim Horton's donut place with Jeff and Gina and two of our grandkids for a snack because they had been to downtown Cloverdale to watch the Santa Claus parade. The season is rich with experiences. I speak to a bunch of seniors this Wednesday at a Christmas lunch gathering. Of course I don't yet admit too loudly that I also am a senior. I am in denial.