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Magazine December 2020

Now Advent is with us it is time to prepare for Christmas. There is a short article thinking about preparations. The article from the church magazine 100 years ago focuses on the Mystery of the Incarnation followed by a translation of an old French carol. As usual there is something about the month and a short quiz about happenings during December. (The answers are at the end.) Charlie has been serious this month as he thought about presents having received an unexpected gift. There is a warning about Christmas/Yuletide visitors and my brother recalls a family meeting. It’s not all serious as there is something to chuckle about.

Stay safe and healthy. Eva.

From the Church Magazine 100 years ago.

“The Mystery of the Incarnation.”

‘What, indeed, are all the wonders that God had done before His people, compared with this one, that God was made man, and dwelt among us? We sometimes speak as if the wonderful thing was, that he should come in such lowly guise, not as a great king and conqueror, but as a mere teacher of the people; that He should be so humble and without show, content with a poor man’s lot and with the form of a servant, instead of appearing in the glory of the Messias, or with the greatness of a prophet like Moses. We dwell on the humble lot of His Mother, and on the manger, and the inn, and the swaddling clothes at Bethlehem, and on the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. It is very well to do so, if we thus make our hearts feel more really what our Lord and Master was when among us. But the wonder of all is the great fact itself, that He did become man at all. It is not so wonderful really that when He became man He also took with manhood poverty and obscurity and contempt and shame. For what is all that man thinks most about, all that he values most highly, – riches, and honour, and comfort, and pleasure, – in the sight of God most high? If He became man at all what would He care about such things as these? That He renounced all this, that He was poor, and despised, and humble, is but a light thing compared with the overwhelming marvel and mystery that God became man, and was made flesh for us. Who can imagine of this rightly? Who can fully take into his mind all that is meant and said in those few words, God became man?’ Dean Church.


French Christmas Carol of the Sixteenth Century.

Lo! with the beasts of the stall,
Sing we Noel!
He lies Who is Lord of all,
Sing we Noel!
Humble His place of birth, in this poor stained earth.
In this poor, sin stained earth,
Oh! Sing Noel!
No lordly cradle was Thine,
Sing we Noel!
No mantle so warm and fine,
Sing we Noel!
In covering poor and mean, was heaven’s Monarch seen.
Was heaven’s great Monarch seen,
Oh! Sing Noel!
Snows falling round His bed,
Sing we Noel!
Winds blowing about His head,
Sing we Noel!
As in a cloister bare, Jesus lies coldly there.
Jesus lies coldly there,
Oh! Sing Noel!
Oh! Saviour, the Lamb most dear,
Sing we Noel!
Come, now to to our hearts appear,
Sing we Noel!
Show us what we should be, draw us now close to Thee.
Draw us now close to Thee,
Sing we Noel!
Pray now to Him, bending low,
Sing we Noel!
That He to our hearts would show -
Sing we Noel!
What have we done amiss, that we may come to bliss.
That we may come to bliss,
Amen! Noel!

The month of December.

December was the last month of the old Roman year which was divided into ten months, hence its name derived from ‘decem’, Latin for ten. The Saxons called it ‘Winter-monat’, winter month and the Anglo-Saxons called it ‘Geolamonat’, that is ‘Yule month’. It was also known as Heligh monath, Holy month when they became Christians.

The birth stones are turquoise which is bluey green and a stone which is only found in Tanzania, the blue to purple tanzanite. The flower of the month is the narcissus in its various guises bringing a hint of brightness to an often dreary month. It is also associated with change e.g the coming year. In the west it is seen as a sign of vanity while in the east is associated with wealth and good fortune.

There can be no doubt about which bird should be associated with the month as the robin features on so my cards and wrapping paper at this time. Perhaps this is our most recognisable bird with its orange-red face, throat and breast. It is olive brown above with with bluish grey flanks and whitish belly. The young are easily distinguished from other brown birds by its speckled breast. They are friendly birds and seem to seek human company seeking food in the garden and often nesting near to buildings and will use an open fronted nesting box. Both sexes sing and most people recognise the sequence of ‘tic tics’, ‘tsit, tsit and high pitched ‘tswee’.

Superstitions associated with the month and Christmas.

‘Marry on the third for all the grief you ever heard.’

‘On Christmas Eve all the animals can talk but it is bad luck to test this superstition.’

‘A Christmas pudding must have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and His disciples. Every member must stir it with a wooden spoon from east to west in honour of the wise men.

‘A child born on Christmas day will have special fortune.’

‘Wearing new shoes on Christmas day will bring bad luck.’

‘Good luck will come to a home that keeps the Yule log burning during the season.’

‘If a girl raps the hen house door on Christmas Eve and a rooster crows she will marry within the year’.

Celts believed that the sun stood still for 12 days in the middle of winter and lit a log to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. This might be the origin of burning the Yule log.

It is unlucky to start any thing on the 28th. This is Holy Innocents day when King Herod had all male children under 2 to be killed hoping that the young King would be amongst them.

Weather lore and associated sayings.

‘The nearer the new moon to Christmas Day, the harder the winter.’

‘A mild December precedes a cold snap later in the year.’

‘Snow on Christmas day means Easter will be green.’

‘A green Christmas; a white Easter.’

‘If Christmas day be bright and clear

There’ll be two winters in the year’.

‘If New Year’s eve night -wind blows south,

It betokeneth warmth and growth;

If west, much milk, and fish in the sea;

If north, cold and storms there will be;

If east, the trees will bear much fruit;

If north-east, flee it, man and brute!’

Prepare for Christmas.

Come, Lord Jesus, come’ – a refrain frequently heard in advent – a time for preparation to greet Our Lord at Christmas. It is a cry that is echoed throughout the world and reflects what Teilhard de Chardin said “Expectation – – – is perhaps the supreme Christian function and the most distinctive characteristic of our religion.” Many may not agree but think about the affirmation made by all during the Eucharistic celebrations: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

John Henry Newman wrote “as year passes after year, silently, Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was.” For him, likewise, the Second Coming is approaching but now, this Advent is the time to welcome Christ as

The Father’s word creative
Fashioned in human form,
In our world became a native,
Is for our salvation born.” Lancelot Andrews.

So our appeal echoes these words
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us we pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today.
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.”

A December quiz. When did the following events occur?

  1. The opening of the new St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
  2. Harold Wilson opened the first motorway in Britain.
  3. The Wright brothers mad the first powered aeroplane flight.
  4. St. Thomas a Becket was martyred in Canterbury cathedral.
  5. “Silent Night, Holy Night” was first sung.
  6. The first episode of Coronation Street was broadcast.
  7. Westminster Abbey was consecrated.
  8. Francis Drake set sail to sale round the world.
  9. Sir Isaac Newton was born.
  10. The birth of Rowland Hill, the originator of the Penny Post.
    Select from the following dates.
    Dec. 2nd 1697; Dec. 3rd 1795; Dec. 5th. 1958; Dec.10th. 1960;
    Dec. 13th 1577; Dec. 17th 1903; Dec.24th. 1818;
    Dec.25th.1642; Dec.28th. 1065; Dec.29th 1170.

Saying thank you.

What does this mean? For many it’s just a couple of words and for me a wag of the tail. That’s not much and does not take any effort at all. I was given a big thank you gift the other day and wondered why. I did not think I had done any thing to merit such a large gift. Then I suddenly remembered I had seen that face before. Yes! When I first came to Littlehampton and was very nervous I met this ‘down and out’ who insisted on saying ‘hello’. She had nothing – no home, no food, no money and no possessions – but she had love and kind eyes. That was many moons ago.

We met again in the cemetery the other week – she had been looking for me for a long time. She said a number of people had helped her – she now had a furnished flat, possessions and an income thanks to the generosity of others. She needed to say thank you and thought of others who had been homeless. Fancy remembering little me – I’m not special! Just a shaggy mongrel! I was the eleventh rescue dog to receive a gift. Inside the carrier bag were things that both of us would have longed for – a warm bed (hence a fleece), food (biscuits and a bowl), special possessions (a toy) and clothing (a scarf).

All I could do was wag my tail and give a wet kiss and walk with her as she left. Not much! Not enough!

I knew that to say thank you properly I had to give a gift. What did I have? Of course something from my doggie bag and I went in search of Mollie. She is a newly rescued dog on the block. She loves toys and food. That was the answer to my problem. I gave her the biscuits, the scarf and the ball.

Now I think I know what saying thank you means.

Its not just a simple word how ever heartfelt it might be. Its more than that. It spreading joy and love. Wag! Wag! Charlie.

A child’s logic.

My brother recalled parts of their conversation when four generations met. His daughter, Clare, brought her daughter, Joanna, and her granddaughter, Bella, aged 18 months, to visit him. While Bella played with her toys or fed the fish in the pond the rest chatted. During the conversation Joanna called Clare ‘Mummy’. Bella was indignant and said ’No! That is not mummy and there is only one mummy and she is here.’ Later Clare called Sid Daddy. Joanna immediately said ‘No! Daddy is working in the gym. He is not daddy’. The only names she would accept was Grandad-fish, my brother who has fish, and grandad-dog, who owns a dog.

Are you confused? What a tangled web we weave for small children. Bella has now got things sorted out.

Have a chuckle!

1) Why did the scarecrow win an award?

He was outstanding in the field.

2) Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants?

In case he got a hole in one.

3) This evening at 7pm there will be a hymn singing in the park. Bring a blanket and be prepared to sin.

4) A woman was restoring an ornate picture frame and had to replace some chipped gold leaf. At the hardware shop she asked the woman behind the counter, “Do you have any gilt?”

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming,” answered the sales assistant.

5) Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.

6) The sermon this morning “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”

Three more quotes from the Desert Fathers.

“Constant prayer quickly straightens out our thoughts.”

“The person who teaches others by actions, not by words, is truly wise.”

“Do not want things to turn out as they seem best to you, but as God pleases. Then you will be free from confusion and thankful in you prayer.”

Watch out for these Christmas visitors.

Gryla, Leppaludi, the Yule cat and the Yule lads visit Icelandic

towns at Christmas tide. These mountain dwelling characters and monsters are mischievous playing pranks during the night or monsters who eat disobedient children.

Gryla is a giantess who has a taste for the flesh of children who misbehave and cooks them in a large pot. She was originally mentioned in the 13th century and was said to be enormous with a repulsive appearance. It was only in the 17th century that she was linked to Christmas. She could be pacified if she was given food and then left the area. Today’s folklore sees her as a giant who can detect naughty children whom she takes away in a sack to cook. According to the legend she is never short of food. She has been married 3 times and her present husband, Leppaludi is lazy and mostly stays at home. They live together with the Yule cat and their sons in a cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields.

The Yule cat is very large and vicious and lurks about the snowy countryside at Christmas time and eats people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas eve. He is Gryla’s pet.

The Yule lads, or Yulemen, are Gryla and Leppaludi’s children. There are 13 of them but come into town singularly during the last 13 days before Christmas. They leave small gifts in the shoes left by children on the window sills if they have been good but only a potato if they have misbehaved.

The Yule goat.

It is a northern European Christmas and Yule time symbol and tradition. It is of pagan origin possibly Germanic and has various Scandinavian variants.

The celebration of the goat is connected to the worship of the Norse god, Thor, who rode a chariot across the skies drawn by a pair of goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjustr. Also an ancient Slavonic belief involved honouring the god, Devac, during the Koliada festival. Devac is represented by a white goat and a man dressed as a goat goes round demanding gifts. In the 11th century at Childermas (the massacre of the innocents) St Nicholas led a man sized goat around symbolises his control over the devil.

In Sweden the Yule goat was regarded as an invisible spirit that would appear before Christmas to make sure the Yule preparations were done correctly. Objects made of straw or roughly hewn wood were called the Yule goat. A popular Scandinavian prank involved secretly placing a Yule goat in a neighbours house. The family had to get rid of it in a similar way.

During the 17th century, and still found in places today, people, in fancy dress, including a goat, would go round singing, acting plays and performing pranks and the goat would demand gifts. During the 19th century the Yule goat’s role changed as it became a giver of gifts at Christmas. (Now replaced by Santa.)

Today the Yule goat is typically a straw ornament with red ribbons often hung on Christmas trees or placed beneath them. Larger versions, since the 1960s, are placed in public places.

Answers to the quiz.

1. Dec.2nd 1697;
2. 5th. 1958;
3. 17th. 1903.
4. 29th 1170.
5. 24th 1818;
6. 10th. 1960;
7. 28th. 1065;
8.13th. 1577;
9. 25th. 1642;
10. 3rd. 1795.

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas.