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.


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.


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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Capturing Christmas

For three nights last week I wore a dress. Well … not really a dress, but a long robe. I was a wise man in a local production that took the audience on a journey to Bethlehem and to a small stable with two new parents staring adoringly at their new baby.

I’m glad that I don’t have to wear a robe like that all the time.

Being on stage in the final scene gave me some unique insights.

From where I stood I could cast my eyes across the room to catch the audience responding to the nativity scene with it’s live animals and a real baby playing the part of Jesus. There was a donkey, who mostly behaved, three sheep and a few chickens. What is it they say about working with children and animals?

What became clear over dozens of performances over the three nights was the difference between those who simply immersed themselves in the story and the scene before them and those who were more interested in capturing the moment on a smorgasbord of electronic devices. There were some who managed to capture a few images but still stay connected with the story but those who seemed to have the single goal of recording the scene seemed to lose the wonder.

From children to adults, those who just let themselves be carried along by the story would beam with joy and amazement. You could see the delight in their faces as they encountered some of the surprises in the scene. Many were very obviously moved by a simple portrayal of the first Christmas.

Conversely, those who spent their whole time trying to capture the moment saw the larger than life story through their tiny screens. There was no wonder in their faces. There was only concentration as they tried to grab the best angle and attempt to record the full 360 degrees of the immersive experience. Will they ever watch what they recorded or will the files be deleted the next time they start running our of space on their device?

Thinking about what happened reminded me of a holiday in Kalbarri decades ago with my dad. In the mornings I would drive to some incredibly picturesque spots, dad would get out of the car, walk a few steps, take a couple of pictures, then get back in the car. In the afternoons, Pauline and I would go back to those spots to explore a little more and to more fully appreciate God’s creation.

Don’t miss the moment.

I love taking photos and even recording some video now and then but I still want to be part of the moment. I don’t want to lose the wonder for the sake of some images that can never truly capture what I’m experiencing.

This Christmas I hope that I’ll see some happy photos of people enjoying the day. I even want to see some Christmas food shots. I love that social media lets us share each other’s day, but don’t spend so much time on creating the perfect shot that you miss everything the day can be.

In the same way, I’m hoping that you allow yourself to be truly immersed in the stable scene that we remember at this time of the year. Don’t give the Christmas story a quick read through. Spend some time among the animals with Mary and Joseph and consider the enormity of the occasion.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:23

God with us. That’s incredible. Put down the distractions this Christmas and let that truly soak in.

My wish for you is that you’ll really capture Christmas this year in a way that you perhaps haven’t before or maybe haven’t for a long time.

This Christmas I hope and pray that you’ll create memories that you can store in your heart rather than just the kind of memories that you can store on a hard drive.

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