Friday, 24 December 2010

That is What Christmas is All About Charlie Brown

This year I missed our annual watching of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I love this cartoon and apparently others love it too. The first of nearly 50 Peanuts television movies, A Charlie Brown Christmas is the longest-running cartoon special in history, airing every year since its debut in 1965. The show itself includes scenes of ice-skating; a pageant (Mendelson and Schulz had both flubbed parts in school shows); a mix of Christmas carols and Guaraldi's contemporary jazz; and the message that Christmas is really about the joyful miracle of Jesus' birth. Whimsical, melancholy, and ultimately full of wonder, it is a holiday favorite for countless families.  But this cartoon classic almost didn't make it on the air.  It was criticized as being too religious—Linus quotes straight from the King James Bible (Luke 2:8-14). Even Charles Schulz admitted that he was probably the only one who could have gotten A Charlie Brown Christmas made.  The television execs may not have liked it but it was an instant hit with viewers and reviewers alike.
Schulz wanted A Charlie Brown Christmas to have the religious meaning that was central to his own experience and understanding of Christmas.  He wanted viewers to know that Christmas was really about Jesus.  As cute as the peanuts gang are they are not Christmas, and without the following scene where Linus speaks truth to his friend Charlie Brown, the show would not have nearly the same impact.

Tonight, we will gather with our family and our church family to celebrate and sing carols at our Christmas Eve service.  Later in the evening when we get into our PJ's, the kids, Jason and I will gather by the light our Christmas tree and we will read the truth about Christmas from Luke 2:1-20.  May we all get to share some truth with friends and family this Christmas!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Advent Update

We are still enjoying our time spent in the mornings reading the Christmas story for our Jessie Tree.  On Sunday we started the readings in Luke.  If you are following along the Luke reading starts here.

Last week Trinity and I got to spend some time together, just the two of us,  as we made a popcorn and cranberry string for our front tree.  It was fun to just sit the two of us and talk as we worked.  TJ did most of the talking but it was fun to sit and listen to her.  I realize that we are often together as a family but I don't have extended periods with just one child at a time.  It was fun just to sit at the kitchen counter and watch her concentrate on stringing the popcorn and cranberries and to listen to her perspective on things.

On Friday, we were involved in a Christmas concert to raise money for an organization called Kerr Street Ministries.  Jason plays with a band called Before the Flood and this is their third annual Christmas charity fundraiser that they organize at a local club called the "Moonshine Cafe".  It is a unique event because there is a family portion first where kids come and sit right in the front and get to play instruments for the first set.  BTF provides pizza and gingerbread cookies and the kids become involved in the concert.  Our kids all came to the event.  The older ones like the music and a chance to sit with their grandparents in a grown up place.  TJ likes meeting all the other kids that come. It is fun night and about eight o'clock all the kids head home and another band called Kensington Prairie does a  set followed by a final set from BTF.  
The Moonshine - A Neighbourhood Gathering Place

The owners of the Moonshine are very involved in their community so the club itself is a place where people that live in the neighbourhood gather. The evidence of community that happens there is all around the place in pictures that nearly cover every part of of the exposed walls.  Musicians and patrons adorn the walls giving affirmation of how many actually have been through the doors.   I am sure a lot of the patrons don't know Jesus, or go to church on Sundays, although one of our Sanctuary church plants used to meet there before they got too big and had to move down the street.  It is place like churches should be, a welcoming place for all who come through the door.  A place where people will talk to you when sit down and will actually be interested in listening to what it is you have to say.  It is a place where I think Jesus would have hung out. 

Now before I go any further, Before the Flood is not a christian band.  There are some Christians in the band but they play secular music.  Jason really likes playing with them.  They play mostly in downtown Toronto and although Jason has never said it, I think he likes being part of the band because not only does he like the guys but they get invited to places that a Christian band never would.   He has some great stories about when people find out he is a pastor.  It shakes things up.   I think that is what Jesus did.  He showed up in places where people gathered and engaged with them.  Places where people didn't expect Him and because of this He shook things up. 
Jason and Steve

So back to Friday night.  My favourite part about the night was we got to sing some fantastic songs about the truth of Christmas.  BTF debuted Jason's new song "This is Christmas".   If you want to listen to it check it our on Jason's My Space page here.  I got to sing "Go Tell It On The Mountain".  I have to admit that is was quite a bit louder and rockier than I have ever sang it in church but the crowd was definitely listening.

Rebecca from Kensington Prairie
I think my favourite part of the night though, was when Rebecca, from Kensington Prairie sang her rendition of two of my favourite Christmas songs.  "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night".  Rebecca has a beautiful voice and as the notes and words of truth carried though out the bar I was reminded that this is what it must have been like that first Christmas night.  Truth and love came down to the most unusual place, a place where no one expected it to come.   The pure beauty of that moment was juxtaposed with the most humble and surprising surroundings. 

Maybe I liked this night so much because it was a reminder to be in the world, to be an ambassador of truth and love where ever I go but especially in the most surprising places.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

I am Lottie Moon

This weekend many churches across the Canadian National Baptist Convention will be collecting a special "Lottie Moon Christmas Offering".  It is an offering to help missionaries across the world share true hope to a hurting world.  Over 5500 International Missionaries are supported by this offering and they work in every conceivable field like evangelism, church planting, medicine, agriculture, community development, disaster relief, health education and tech support. Lottie Moon served for 39 years as a missionary to the people of China.  She loved those around her as Christ had loved her and when a famine hit the country she gave her food away to the many starving around her.  Her love and commitment to the Chinese people continues to be an example and an inspiration to us all. It is for this reason that giving to Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has become a tradition in our house that we look forward to every year.  Check out this video on Lottie's story and how others have followed in her footsteps.

I Am Lottie Moon from Rob Stevens on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Advent Update

I am still not having a lot of time to write but I don't think I could have said any better than Jason did today so have a look at his post.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

An Advent Update and thoughts on pondering

Liam and TJ braving the cold
Although I am really enjoying celebrating Advent with our little experiment, I am finding it hard to fit time into my day to blog about everything that happens.  Life in the McGibbon Zoo is really never dull but around Christmas it seems that there is always something happening.  Daniel put it best this past week when he said, "I thought we were suppose to be trying to have a low key Christmas?"  I really had no answer and all I could do was laugh.

It seems that no matter how hard we try to make life simple the scheduling and responsibilities of a six person family can become complicated really quickly.  So to be honest although I wanted our Advent experiment to be the focus of each day, it has seemed that we have been trying to fit it in around life this past week.  In reflection, I am not sure that this is a bad thing just different from what I thought it would be like.

I have enjoyed spending at least some point in our day focused on trying to figure out how Jesus would have celebrated.  Our advent reading every morning with our Jessie Tree Ornaments have been a special time and one that I am looking forward to each day.  Today's reading was on the Lord is My Shepherd.

Daniel cutting down our perfect tree
If you follow Jason's blog you will already know that Tuesday we made our annual trip to Rina's to cut down our Christmas Tree.  This has become a favourite tradition at our house.  The trip went as it often does each year with the whole family tramping through the field looking for that perfect tree.  I always pick one that is perfect but maybe just a little too big for our house.  This year was no different and our tree is beautiful and quite large around the middle.  My husband is a sweet heart and worked hard to fit it into our family room and it is perfect.
Our Yearly Sleigh Photo

The other tradition that we continued this year was to take a photo of the kids in the Christmas sleigh that is at the tree farm.  I do this every year and it is fun to look back and see how they have grown.  At 6 ft Daniel almost doesn't fit in the sleigh with his brother and sisters so he was a good sport in letting me take this shot.  Lots of fun happens each year on our trip to pick out our tree and it is a tradition that has us spending time with one and other as family.

  Later in the week we decorated our tree.  My tree might not be a designer tree but each ornament has a story.  Each year as we gather together to decorate, all the stories are retold again by the kids.  They love to hang each ornament and the centre of our tree is always the place where we hang our Nativity ornament set.  Many of my favourite Christmas memories have happened as we have hung our nativity scene on our tree.  We talk about what it must have been like that first Christmas night.  My mind wanders as I look at the kids and I wonder what Mary must have felt all those many years ago.  A first time young mother and her baby is the Son of God.  What must she have thought as dusty shepherds were straggling in to see her son?  I wonder if she felt guilty about not being able to give Him a proper place to enter this world?  Scripture says In Luke Chapter 2 that after she witnessed all of this that she pondered these things in her heart.  As I was watching my kids decorating, I was pondering.  I was pondering this journey that we are trying to walk with God and I was pondering how I have seen God intervene in my life and in the lives of my husband and children.  I wonder what my life would look like if I took more time to ponder?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Day 4 & Day 5 - Advent Experiment

Well, day 4 & 5 of our advent experiment was a bit of a whirlwind.  As much as we are craving simple, our life often gets complicated.  This past weekend we had lots of events in which we really tried to focus on family.  I think we hit the mark part of the time but as always there was definitely room for improvement! 

Jason's thoughts on this past weekend are here.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Day 3 - Exchanging our gifts to sponsor a child

Day 3 of our experiment was very exciting.  This weekend we have two different extended family Christmas parties.  It is fun to get together and we often bring small gifts to exchange with those we love.  Today, we decided to put the money we would normally spend on gifts for extended family and friends into something other than small trinkets that really didn't express how we felt about them or how we felt about Christmas.  Instead, we decided to sponsor a child with Compassion International, in honour of the family and friends that we love.  The cool part about this is that the kids decided they wanted to give their own money each month too. 

So why Compassion?  Our kids picked it.  We asked them to research different child organizations from which we could sponsor a child.  They got on the Internet and googled different organizations.  After their research they had lots of different reasons why they thought Compassion fit the values of our family best but really it boiled down to Compassion's ministry focus.  As quoted from their website the organization is:
  • Christ-centered
  • Child-focused 
  • Church-based
So today, we sat on the computer and decided on a child to sponsor.  The kids criteria was pretty simple. They wanted to sponsor a child that had been waiting a long time.  At first they thought it would be a girl.  In the end, they felt drawn to a boy that had been waiting longer than another other child there,  almost 500 days.  His name is Silvan, he is 8 years old and he lives with his grandparents.  We are already planning on writing a letter to him to begin a friendship.  We are all looking forward to learning more about him and his life on the other side of the world.

Already much discussion has begun in our house.  Challenging discussions about how we have so much when some have so little and how we live out Jesus' love for all.  It is good discussions and ones that need to be had.

If you feel drawn to sponsoring a child please check out Compassion Canada.  There are so many children waiting for over a year for sponsor. 

Friday, 3 December 2010

Day 2 - The Manger in the Shadow of the Cross

Yesterday, we started off the day with gathering together at the dining room table to read our Advent reading as a family and for one of the kids to hang the next ornament on our Jessie Tree.  Our reading was about Noah and the flood.  I love hearing the kids thoughts about how our daily reading relates to Christmas.  It is a great way to start the day together.

After we finished our bible time, I announced to the kids that they were only going to complete one subject of school and then we were going to work on a special project.  The surprised look on their faces was priceless.  I am usually pretty disciplined when it comes to their school work so I think they were in shock!  As I explained our special project they started to get excited.  I was excited too so while the kids finished their school work I started to get things organized.

Our special project for the day was to bless friends of ours that are going through a very difficult time.  They are a big family like ours and their family is also a blended family of natural kids and kids by adoption so we have a sort of kinship with them.  Over the last five months, they have been preparing to adopt two more children into their family.  These children have been living with them and they love them and we love them.  Today they are having to let them go.  I won't go into all the details but they can no longer be adopted and today our friends will have to say good-bye to two members of their family.  It is a heart wrenching experience that we as a family have also walked not so long ago.  We remember the heart ache like it was yesterday.  We understand the parents broken hearts and our kids understand their kids broken hearts.  No one wants this situation, the parents and kids that are staying don't want it and the kids that have to leave don't want to go.  It is a situation in which you just have to trust that God will continue to be with all involved no matter where they are.

So although we cannot lesson the heartache for our friends, we decided to try to do something practical to make their last full day together easier. We made them a big dinner with homemade gingerbread cookies for dessert.  It is not a big thing but it was something to show them that we care.  We hung out with them yesterday afternoon.   We didn't shy away from their pain.  We let them be how they needed to be yesterday.  Even though there is nothing that we can say or do to lessen their heavy hearts we just wanted them to know we loved them.  Yesterday, I hugged my friend and I didn't try to tell her that everything would be alright because the truth is that it isn't okay.  I believe Jesus will heal her broken heart and He will not leave any of them for a moment during this time but the whole situation is still terrible.

So although our special project started off with the warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling of working together to help our friends by making them dinner.   I think we all learned more by just being with them during a difficult time.  For myself, I was reminded that this is why Jesus humbled himself to come and walk among us.  He immersed himself in the lives of people.  Not just in good times but in difficult times.  When I look at His life I see so many examples of the way He loved people.  Loving people is often messy, heartbreaking and difficult.  God sent Jesus because He knew that life in a fallen world is broken and the only way to fix it was for Him to send His Son to pay the ransom for us all.  Jesus birth at Christmas leads us to His death and resurrection at Easter.  The manger needs to be seen the shadow of the cross.  In the end all will be made right.

For today, please join us in praying for our friends.

"And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.  And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true."  - Revelations 21:3-5

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Our Advent List - Day 1

So yesterday was the first day of trying to do something each day to celebrate Christmas.  I will let Jason tell you what we did on his blog .

For my thoughts I will say.  I loved it.  It was a fantastic way to end the day.  Our family prayer time was especially meaningful for me as we prayed as individuals and as a family for the right attitude for Christmas.  I love hanging out with my family.

We are already working on today's activity and singing together as we do it.  The mood in our house is definitely full of Christmas cheer.  I will write about it tomorrow.

Have a fantastic day!