Let the Music Play

The old song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” but not everyone’s convinced. Either way, you can’t escape the all pervasive sounds of sleigh bells and cheery Christmas music at this time of year.

For some people it rings out the happy news that the big day is imminent. Others are left asking, “How did we get here so quickly?”

It’s the first day of December. Christmas is around the corner. That means it’s time for me to press play on my selection of Christmas music.

I’ve got over four hundred Christmas songs on my iPod. There are songs about snow and the cold weather, which sound really weird when we’re looking down the barrel of hot summer days, through to odes to a fat guy in a red suit.

Everyone joins in with music from Michael Buble to Diana Krall, Bing Crosby, Run DMC, Barry White, The Wiggles, Guy Sebastian, Jimmy Barnes and even Russel Coight, along with many others. There aren’t too many musos who haven’t released something Christmassy over the years.

Then, among all the excitement of all that the big day holds, comes songs that tell of something deeper. I love all the fun of the season but the Christmas music that speaks most clearly to me is the music that tells the simple story of a baby, born two thousand years ago in humble surroundings, and arriving with the massive task of healing a broken world.

One of the songs that captures that story the best is still Randy Stonehill’s Christmas Song for All Year Round. It not only speaks of the baby we celebrate at this time of year but of the price he paid on our behalf.

Christmas Song for All Year Round
-Randy Stonehill

I wonder if this Christmas they’ll begin to understand
The Jesus that they celebrate is much more than a man
‘Cause the way the world is I don’t see how people can deny
The only way to save us was for Jesus Christ to die

And I know that if St. Nicholas was here he would agree
That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me
They led him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary
And mankind was forgiven when they nailed him to the tree

But most of all the children they’re the ones I hope will learn
That Jesus is our savior and he’s going to return
And Christmas isn’t just a day and all days aren’t the same
Perhaps they’ll think about the word and see it spells his name

And I know that if St. Nicholas was here he would agree
That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me
They led him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary
And mankind was forgiven, mankind was forgiven
We were all forgiven when they nailed him to the tree

So Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.

I wonder if this Christmas they’ll begin to understand??

What is your favourite Christmas music?

Do you have a favourite Christmas song? Do you have a favourite artist at Christmas time? Will your songs be filled with sleigh bells or a saviour?

Let me know about your musical tastes around Christmas.

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Change a Life this Christmas

I love receiving gifts. I love the unwrapping and the excitement of having something shiny and new. I also love the fact that people care enough to choose something for me. It doesn’t matter if the gifts are big or small … it really is the thought that counts for me.

I love giving gifts. I’ll admit that do I worry about the gifts I give. I wonder whether they’ll be suitable and appreciated but when I manage to choose the right gift, it’s a beautiful thing.

With Christmas just around the corner I know that there’ll be a fair bit of giving and receiving in the coming weeks.

While many gifts are fun, there are some that are absolutely life changing.

Gifts of Compassion

Gifts of Compassion are real goods and services given to children and families in Compassion child development centres around the world when you purchase an item from the Gifts of Compassion catalogue. For every Gift of Compassion you order, you will receive a gift card to personalise for your friends and loved ones.

Funds raised from the Gifts of Compassion catalogue are used to support Compassion’s Critical Needs, which remove obstacles to children’s development and implement preventative action. These interventions include providing safe water, disaster relief, emergency medical care, vocational training, infrastructure, and much more: all issues that need to be addressed for a child to be released from poverty.

Compassion Australia uses Gifts of Compassion funds to meet the project needs represented in the catalogue.

It concerns me that while I’m enjoying lovely new things that I don’t really need, there are people in many parts of the world that don’t have the basics that they need to get on with the daily task of just keeping their families alive.

If Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, surely we should be doing something that honours him and his desire that we care for the poor, rather than overindulging while most of the world goes without.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we should all be miserable and not fully enter into the celebrations at this time of year.

Balance

I suppose that’s where we all need some kind of balance between the giving and receiving of gifts between friends and loved ones and our wider responsibility to those in need around the world. We live in a global village but most of the villagers are missing out. Those of us who’ve been blessed by simply being born in the right place should spare a thought for those who only ask for the gift of life this Christmas.

I might not have a lot of use for a goat but for a rural family in a developing country the simple gift of a goat could be just what they need to be released from poverty.

Compassion

So where do you buy a goat and how do you get it to someone who needs it? Compassion Australia’s Gifts of Compassion is open and ready for business. That’s where you can buy gifts that help people who are battling desperate poverty. They can take your money and turn it into a very real solution to poverty.

You can buy everything from a chicken to mosquito nets and lots more in between including goats, cows, tooth brushes, sewing machines and baby vaccinations.

Your support really does make a difference.

I’ve visited churches partnering with Compassion in seven of the 25 countries where Compassion is working and I can personally vouch for the fact that it makes a difference. When you support those in poverty through Compassion, the aid really does make it to those who need it. In fact, it was after seeing the work of Compassion that I decided that I would do all I could to advance their work which is why I’ve now been working full-time for Compassion for just over four years.

This Christmas I do want to receive something for myself, wrapped in thought and love, but I also hope that someone will give me a goat or a chicken or some clean water for someone I’ll never meet.

What about you?

Go on … you’ve thought about it before but unless you let your loved ones know now it’ll never happen. Ask those you love to buy something for someone else this Christmas.

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Christmas 2016

Is it still Christmas Eve 2016 where you are? Here in Perth it’s already well and truly Christmas Day. (We like to get an early start on the festivities.)

I want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy day as you celebrate Christmas wherever you are in the world. You may be experiencing a cold or even a white Christmas, but here in Perth, Western Australia, we have a hot summer day forecast. It won’t be as hot as some previous years but we’ll still be up around 32 degrees Celsius which is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s a little strange that a lot of our Christmas songs still talk about snow and how cold it is. I can always agree with the first line of ‘Let it Snow’ when it says, “The weather outside is frightful.” There’s a bit of a disconnect after that but it can be frightful when the mercury heads up towards 40 (104 Fahrenheit) as it does at this time of year.

As you celebrate this year, remember to pace yourself throughout the day so that you don’t regret it all tomorrow. Also, don’t forget to take time out to reflect on what Christmas is truly all about.

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

We went to a Christmas Eve service at church last night. It was a delight to be part of a simple yet profound time of remembering what this day means. We’ll be catching up with family for a big Christmas lunch which is likely to spread into the evening.

I’d really love to hear how you’ll be celebrating. Please leave a comment or two to let me know.

What are your Christmas traditions? How will you be spending this day?

A day of mixed emotions.

I know that Christmas can also bring sadness as we think about those that aren’t around the table this year. It’s been many years since we’ve shared Christmas with my dad and even longer since mum was around. They’ll be missed once again. For some people, it’s the first year without someone close. Sometimes, as in my case, it’s because that person has passed away, yet for others it can be a breakdown in relationships that will leave an empty chair this Christmas.

Whatever your situation, my prayer is that the joy of Christmas and what it means will still break through into your life on this special day.

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Soundtrack of My Life – Aussie Jingle Bells

Soundtrack of my Life This is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life. You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. Whether it’s the lyrics, the music, a time in my life, or a combination of reasons, the songs in my soundtrack are part of who I am.

If you take a good look you’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too. You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

Aussie Jingle Bells – Bucko & Champs

In a country where Christmas Day is generally somewhere between hot and scorching, it seems odd that we still listen to so many Christmas songs about snow and trying to stay warm in the cold weather. The imagery on Christmas cards, on our decorations and throughout our shopping centres also reflect a frosty Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That’s why Aussie Jingle Bells by Bucko & Champs has become such a classic down under. It’s a little closer to our experience of the season and the day.

Bucko & Champs is Colin Buchanan and Greg Champion. Aussie Jingle Bells was just one of the many Christmas songs that got an Australian update on their 1996 album, Aussie Christmas with Bucko & Champs.

Aussie Jingle Bells – Bucko & Champs

Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden Ute
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot
Kelpie by my side
Singing Christmas songs
It’s Summer time and I am in
My singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summer’s day
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine’s getting hot
We dodge the kangaroos
The swaggie climbs aboard
He is welcome too
All the family’s there
Sitting by the pool
Christmas day, the Aussie way
By the barbecue!

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summer’s day
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute.

Come the afternoon
Grandpa has a doze
The kids and uncle Bruce
Are swimming in their clothes
The time comes round to go
We take the family snap
Pack the car and all shoot through
Before the washing up

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summer’s day
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute.

(And if you’re not from Australia, it might help you to know that ‘thongs’ are a kind of footwear down here.)

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

Do you have a favourite Christmas song? Do you have a favourite artist at Christmas time? I’d love to hear about what you listen to at Christmas time each year.

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Unwrapping the Real Christmas

(This is based on a post that I republish each year around this time.)

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

I find it interesting that any time someone suggests removing the word ‘Christmas’ from our celebrations at this time of year there are cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ yet we still pay so little attention to what that word actually signifies.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.

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