Tag Archives: christmas

Meditations on Beans and Miracles

Friends of mine, Shaun and Mary Fullmer, are serving a mission in France. In a recent email Sister Fullmer wrote:

“The elders came back to our place for lunch after shopping and to do their weekly email. Because it is la Fête des Rois today (Kings’ Day), we bought galette at Tartapain for dessert. Elder B found the fève (“bean”, or surprise object) and got to wear the crown. He kindly left the figure for us to add to our small collection. Today’s item was an animal – hard to tell for sure but it might be a sheep or a donkey.”

She includes this picture of the fèves they have collected so far. Here’s what they are in the order the Fullmers acquired them: one of the magi, Hobbit character, croissant, baby Jesus, animal. (I’m betting the latest one is a donkey.)

Mary's beans

By doing a little research through the scholarly authority of Wikipedia, I was reminded that Kings’ Day marks Twelfth Night, the beginning of the traditional Christian holiday on January 6th of “Epiphany”, honoring the “revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ” as well as the arrival of the wise men and their gifts to the baby Jesus, twelve nights after his birth. Continue reading

Just Receive

Annunciation by Matthias Stom

Annunciation by Matthias Stom

My ex-husband bought me a waffle maker for Christmas. Well, technically, my kids “bought” me a waffle maker for Christmas, but I know they don’t get that kind of money from their allowance. A few weeks ago, when my ex dropped the kids off on Sunday morning, he brought in a large box and stuck it under my tree. I immediately became nervous because I knew that he spent a fair amount of money on a gift for me, and I certainly had not done the same for him. Helping the kids buy presents for their dad somehow fell off my to-do list this December; I know the two oldest used some of their own money to buy a few trinkets for him at the school’s “Santa’s Workshop”, but the youngest didn’t get him anything. His generous funding of the kids’ gift to me left me feeling awkward—first that I had not helped them reciprocate equally and secondly because I wasn’t sure what the inspiration for his generosity was. Guilt over his past actions? A desire to make himself feel better and to be a ‘good’ person by being nice to his ex-wife? A desire to soften my heart and possibly make it more forgiving? But then, on Christmas morning, as I unwrapped my present, I saw the excited faces of my children intent on my reaction. They knew what I wanted most and were filled with joy as they watched me open their gift to me. I felt my heart soften and a little voice in the back of my mind whispered Receive, just receive. Continue reading

Puffy-Eyed Perfection and the Nativity

Somewhere tangled in the tinsel and light of several Christmas Pasts, I saw a small picture of Brian Kershisnik’s ‘Nativity’ online. The screen colours were tired, but the exuberance and hinted detail of the painting shone through regardless. One day, I promised myself, that is going to be a present to myself. Fast forward years to 2013 where I not only had the opportunity to visit the USA, but I had funds to splurge a little. The first thing I did after getting the emailed confirmation of my flight was to order a print – months in advance – and have it delivered to a friend’s home in Florida. The thought of the scene, carefully scrolled and waiting, warmed my winter as I counted down to soaring over the Pacific.

A few days after landing in Utah, Tay took me to the BYU campus for a look around. The first building we entered, I turned right and nearly fell to my knees. Spread across the entire wall, in heart thrumming, enormous, awe inspiring detail, was the original ‘Nativity’. Mary, Joseph and the bundled Jesus were a heartbeat away. I stood awed at the detail shown, the life inferred, and was flooded with a more rugged, fervent appreciation for that night. I was undone by Mary’ and Joseph’s hands touching – the giving and receiving of comfort, support, relief. The blood on the midwives hands, the puppy clustered dog in the corner, all of it understated, every day, exultant.

What has affected me longest is Mary’s puffy, exhausted eyes. A tiny, simple detail but one I identified with wholeheartedly. I’ve always wondered about Mary’s experience, especially around the birth of Christ, and those hooded, sagged eyelids reflect and amplify my empathy and respect for her. I know there are a thousand other details in the painting, but Mary’s eyes are what speak to me the most.

There are thousands of details about the time of Jesus’ birth, and everyone I know has their own favourite, special part. It’s in making the story our own, the flourishes and details in one part, the boring bit skipped over, that soak it deeper into our own stories, our own hearts, our own empathetic imaginings. It can be the simple details that bring the greatest joy, in paint, in a BYU building, or in our own lives this Christmas.

As this is scheduled to publish just after midnight on Tuesday morning USA time, I’ll be in the thick of Christmas Eve. There’ll be laughter and lights, my boys and banter, food and friends, craziness and crushed wrapping paper. But before bed, or on Christmas, my sons and I will be jumbled together watching this retelling of the Christmas story by kids in their own words, by their own actions. And at Christmas, especially, telling our stories of Jesus in our own words and ways is a tiny, simple spark ready to light up our lives and those around us.

What details do you love about the Christmas story? Has any art or media deepened your empathy and/or understanding for those at the Nativity? What simple beauty and perfection do you see this Christmas?

(The same kids have done another scene, about what might have happened before the first Christmas, too.)

(Here is a link to Brian Kershisnik answering kids’ questions about his ‘Nativity’, right in front of the painting. And I have to admit, I love that the first question was about the dog.)

An Advent Challenge


Here’s an Advent exercise I enjoy practicing to keep me tethered to tranquility during the rush of Christmastime. We’re in the thick of Advent right now, but there’s still time to jump into this, and it’s a great family activity.

There are three assignments, each of which should be accomplished before Christmas day. I never do them in any particular order, but if you prefer a little more structure, go for it.

Each assignment involves giving a gift or doing a service of some kind. Here are the challenges: Continue reading

Going Mad Before Christmas

Baking under the unseasonably hot (Spring!) October sky: “Hey, only two months until Christmas!” the burly, bearded truck driver beams. “Are you getting excited?”

Cooking dinner at home: “Mum, book lists for next year are here. They want them back in by November.”

Staff meeting at work two days ago: “….And finally, guys, have a look at the leave calendar and get your leave applications in ASAP, we need to be organised over Christmas and New Year.”

Christmas decorations and food were on the shelves on the first of October. Even before the Halloween insanity. Mayday, mayday, the black hole of the Christmas Season is sucking me in! Beam me out, Gandalf! Continue reading