Sunday, 3 January 2016

Isn't it nearly over yet?

Christmas is ‘over’ as I write: it is two days after Boxing Day... by Clare Weiner (aka Mari Howard) 

We have entered that in-between  or ‘liminal’ timeless world, while we await the New Year. (By the time you read this, it will be 2016 - at least, we expect, or hope, it will ...) 

On the Solstice, I looked almost with envy at the Stonehenge gathering: how simple to greet the sun, and then go home, no necessity join the complicated rituals of a Western, Christian-ish Christmas.

And we decided to keep it simple this year, and were glad. 

Horrible colds and coughs assailed us in the few days before, but keeping simple muddled it through. How good to decide, and stick with, contentment with the pile of luggage in the hall, the improvised sleeping arrangements, and the possible slippage of meal times. None of that matters in the real scheme of things. 
Living room welcomes family guests

So, the radio is playing ‘I Vow to Thee, my Country’ when I switch it on at 7.30am: 

‘I vow to thee …’ rather than ‘While Shepherds Watched’ or ‘Hark the Herald Angels’? Feelings of displacement followed. Was it Christmas Day?

It was. And this was Desert Island Discs, the castaway was an astronaut, and just possibly the programme planners associated walking in space with a general theme of skies and the Universe, the Star which the Magi followed, and the angel Choir. Christmas for the 21st century? Or, maybe not… Whatever, the next hour featured a game of Just a Minute, a reading of the entire Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and no Happy Christmas greetings. Nothing about the mysterious event, 2000 years ago, the birth  a baby to an ordinary, temporarily displaced, family, who is God himself, creator of all that is, space, universe, our planet…  
Christmas Stars windowsill by 'Saturday Mornings at St Margaret's' Group

An event far from the frantic shopping, cooking, baking, travelling, over-indulgence and consequent frayed tempers. 

As far as the earth is from the sun - or Son. ‘God’s thoughts are not our thoughts’ indeed. While we humans may try to celebrate with parties, carol concerts, present-giving, planning and expecting everything to be perfect, God simply turns up incognito and, to the majority, hidden. I had expected some reference to the source of the big holiday season, not a hymn that’s become unpopular today, which glorifies our country not our creator.  

Expectation can and does disappoint. 

Any small thing going ‘wrong’ spoils perfection. God, in Christ, did not fulfil expectation: they wanted a Messiah, a King, to challenge and defeat the Romans. A descendent of David, so they could re-live the glorious days of their past. God offered an apparently plodding solution, based in time-space, tailored to their, and our, human limitations. Jesus’s life begins in simplicity, and relies on hope. (It also relied on Mary and Joseph, acting as God's 'hands and feet', and a good deal more.)
A positive and expectant hope
His plans are beyond human invention, and

Hope and expectation can become confused. 

Jesus's followers frequently made this mistake. So can we.

As we move into a new year, we can’t not expect, or hope, to achieve, and to be at least writers, if not more than writers. We have ideas, the drive to create, we have deadlines or contracts to fulfil.

Life is uncertain. God in Jesus limited himself to the time-space world, and brought about changes more unimaginable than the limits of the expectations of his contemporaries. So, let's cling not to expectation of a bright but so far imaginary future, but to a positive and expectant hope, which, as Paul reminds us, ‘does not disappoint us.’  (Romans 5.5a)

Clare writes fiction under the name of Mari Howard and has 2 novels of the 'Mullins Family Saga' already published (by Hodge Publishing): Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year. She is working on a third, Love You to the Moon.  The stories are centred around an extended family including Christians and atheists, scientists and artists, and deal with deep moral questions in a warm and accessible family setting.
She blogs as Mari Howard but writes non-fiction and poems under her own name, and is also a painter.


  1. Mari, can you please put your name in the title and a biog at the end, so that those of us who read offline know whom we're reading? Thanks!

    1. Hi Veronica, Yes sorry about this - I completely forgot to add my name, which is of course part of the instructions to post! Blame the cough/cold virus we've had here: it addles the brain. As for bio, there was one which I thought was added each time mechanically but as there seems not to be I can manage that (hopefully) next time...

    2. PS If you look at the righthand sidebar, you can see the names next to the date of each blog. So I am writing on 3rd of the month, and that's me Clare Weiner who writes as Mari Howard (and I do, it's on my books - and those are my middle names - Mariella Howard - C.M.H. Weiner ...)

  2. I really did like the reminder here about the unexpected way in which God turned up, not fulfilling people's expectations. We should be open to surprises in 2016, then, I hear you saying. I'm all for that!

  3. :-) Thanks, Fran! I think I liked it that God planned it without trumpets and ceremonial, etc (until of course the Angle Choir let the secret out big time, followed by the 'Wise' magi who visited Herod!!

  4. Thanks for this Clare. Inspirational and much food for thought. I too am looking forward to what 2016 will bring

  5. Thank you Clare, and wishing you a blessed year ahead

  6. I'm catching up after attempting to limit my time online at the weekend. Our sermon yesterday was about the unexpected. (And Greek words for time.) Sue

    1. Ours was about the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi! So agree, one does need to make some un-digital time for real life! Thanks for reading ...