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A Random Christmas

Christmas is less that two weeks away; the countdown has begun.  I love Christmas and the lead up to it, and not just because of the holidays I'll be taking following the service on Christmas Day!  Belinda and I will be taking some time with her family on a house boat on Lake Macqarie - really looking forward to that.

I was doing some research online preparing for our Christmas services and came up with a list of really random Christmas Facts!

1. “Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas. The song was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh”. It was supposed to be played in the composer’s Sunday school class during Thanksgiving as a way to commemorate the famed Medford sleigh races. “Jingle Bells” was also the first song to be broadcast from space.

2. Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system. According to Roger Highfield, the author of the book “The Physics of Christmas: From the Aerodynamics of Reindeer to the Thermodynamics of Turkey” the world’s most famous reindeer has a red nose due to a parasite. However, Rudolf’s relationship with his parasite is symbiotic: after all, the red nose illuminates the path through the winter night for the whole reindeer team.

3. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa Claus) arrives from Spain, not from the North Pole. And that’s not the only weird thing about the Dutch Christmas. Sinterklaas has his little helpers, but they are not adorable hard-working elves: they are black-faced boys and girls who can steal your kids if they misbehave, and bring them to back Spain which is, according to the Dutch, a severe punishment.

4. Santa stretches time like a rubber band, in order to deliver all the gifts in one night. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are 2,106 million children under age 18 in the world. If we assume that each household has in average 2.5 children, Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling 221 million miles. Given the different time zones, Santa has 36 hours to deliver gifts, therefore his average speed would be approximately 650 miles per second. It is less than the speed of light (therefore, it’s, theoretically, doable but still quite hard for a chubby old man). Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, suggests that Santa uses relativity clouds to get the work done. Relativity clouds, based on relative physics, allow Santa to stretch time like a rubber band which gives him months to deliver gifts, while only a few minutes pass for the rest of us.

5. The “X” in “Xmas” doesn’t take “Christ” out of “Christmas. Xmas is a common abbreviation of the word Christmas, however, some people think that this spelling is not right, because it takes the “Christ” out of Christmas. Don’t worry, no one is taking the “Christ” anywhere. In the Greek alphabet, the letter X (“chi”) is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ or Christos.

6. The first artificial Christmas Tree wasn’t a tree at all. It was created out of goose feathers that were dyed green. The first artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany in the 19th century, due to a major continuous deforestation. The feather trees became increasingly popular during the early 20th century and finally made their way to the US.

7. Iceland has 13 Santas and an old lady who kidnaps children. Christmas in Iceland is a colorful fusion of religion, fairy tales and folklore. Instead of one Santa, the kids are visited by 13 Yule Lads that either reward children for good behavior or punish them if they were naughty. The holiday period begins 13 days before Christmas and each day one of the 13 Yule Lads comes to houses and fills the shoes that kids leave under the Christmas tree either with sweets and small gifts or rotting potatoes, depending on how that particular child has behaved on the preceding day. The mother of Yule Lads, half-troll, half-beast, horrifying old woman Grýla, kidnaps naughty kids and boils them in her cauldron.

Well - I'm not sure how Christmas in Iceland ever got popular!  Now, on to your invitation - I'm inviting you (and you can invite anyone else to join you) to come along to one our Christmas services this Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  I'm giving the services the theme; A Random Christmas becuase sermon I'll be preaching will be looking at all the random things that go into making Christmas.

When you stop to think about it (maybe you have?) the ingredients in the Christmas story do seem kind of random: a decree from Caesar, an engaged virgin, an angelic announcement, three wise men, and no room at the inn — doesn’t sound like the narrative we’d write if we were God. Some of the circumstances we may be dealing with personally this year aren’t exactly what we’d write for our own stories either.

In this message I'll be challenging us all to respond to the seemingly random curve balls life throws our way the same way Mary did to God’s biggest curve ball yet.

In the face of life’s seeming randomness, we can take comfort in the fact that God is active in the world. The Christmas story confirms that he is at work in the midst of darkness. As Christmas approaches, remind yourself of God’s extraordinary love of humankind.

I'll leave you with this message from the Apostle Paul:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17b–19