Peace on Earth

Christianity is a global religion, as celebrations surrounding Christ’s birth illustrates. Traditions, folklore and mysteries also enters the season.

santas

Austria:  On December 6th, Christmas half goat/half devil, lurks about to beat naughty children with birch branches then drag them to his underworld lair.

Germany:  Parents hide a pickle ornament deep among the Christmas tree branches, and the child to find it receives an extra gift and good luck in the year ahead.

Finland:  Families visit the sauna together on Christmas Eve.

Portugal:  A Christmas morning feast called Consoda is held for remembering dead loved ones. Plates are laid at the table for those who have passed and often crumbs are sprinkled for them on the fireplace hearth.

Czech Republic:  On Christmas, unmarried women stand by a door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the toe points toward the door, they’ll get married that year.

Norway:  Norwegians can’t clean on Christmas. All the brooms are hidden so they won’t be stolen by witches or other nefarious spirits.

South Korea:  Santa Harabujee, or Santa Grandfather, sometimes dresses in a traditional red, but he can wear a blue suit too. Clothing colors aren’t the only unconventional yuletide choice in South Korea. Many non-Christians consider Christmas a romantic holiday; radio stations ditch the Christmas carols for love songs and restaurants fill up with reservations for two quickly.

Greece:  Many believe in Kallikamtzeri: goblins that cause mischief during the 12 Days of Christmas. Gifts are usually exchanged on January 1st which is St. Basil’s Day.

Slovakia:  The head of the family takes a spoon of Loksa, or bread pudding, and throws it at the ceiling. The more that sticks, the better the crops for the year.

Iceland:  Children leave a shoe on their windowsill, which is filled with treats every night of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Greenland:  The raw fish of an Auk, an Arctic bird, is wrapped in seal skin and placed under a rock for several months so that it will decompose. It is considered a Christmas delicacy.

New Zealand:  Rather than all-green trees, Kiwis decorate Pohutukawa trees, a costal evergreen with bright and red aster-like flowers.

Guatemala:  Each neighborhood collects a pile of dirt swept from all its houses, then places the pile on the effigy of the devil, then burns it.

South Africa:  Most of South Africa’s Christmas traditions are festive, there is a rather creepy cautionary tale of a little boy named Danny who ate all the Christmas cookies before Santa arrived and for his gluttony was murdered by his own grandmother.

Mexico:  Piñatas are filled with candy and coins are hung in the trees and homes in the ceiling. Children take turns hitting the piñatas with a stick to try and burst it open to spill the treats on the floor and grab all the goodies they can.

Ethiopia:  Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Everyone wears white to mark the holiday.

China:  Santa Claus is often depicted playing the saxophone. He doesn’t travel with elves, rather he travels the globe with festively dressed women.

Ukraine:  Ukrainians decorate their Christmas tree with a fake spider and an artificial web as part of a that has its roots and tradition in the legend of a poor woman whose children awake in the night and find that spiders have decorated their tree for them in the night.

There’s only one more thing to say—Joy to the World.

 

It’s Snow Joke

snowflake1Everyone wants the white stuff to make it feel like Christmas. That white powder puts people in a Christmassy mood. Songs like “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow” floods the radio during the holidays. Snowflakes shows the true gift of God’s design. Did you know that it takes over 500,00 snowflakes to pack a good snowball? Snowflakes are as unique as our fingerprint, a retina design and your DNA. Amazing don’t you think? Watching it snow, experiencing a blizzard, seeing all those mountain tops covered with snow—and each snowflake is unique.

Snow covered sidewalks, windshields, trees and rooftops are beautiful to gaze upon. Snow is fun to play with and far more complex in structure and composition than anyone ever imagined. These little white “flakey” entices fascinate physicists and scientists. They really are God-made miniature miracles of nature.

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What do we really know of snow? We know this, it is all God-controlled. He has access to each speck of snow before it hits earth. Remember what God said to Job: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?” Job 38-22

Snowflakes are formed when water vapor freezes specks of dust high in the earth’s atmosphere. As icy crystal droplets fall through the sky, it bumps and knocks against other crystals, melting a little and refreezing a little on the way to the ground, falling to earth in a journey different from that of any other snowflake. And what would Christmas time be without singing, “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, jingle all the way, O what fun it is to ride in a one-horse opened sleigh, O’re the fields we go laughing all the way” all the while dashing through the snow. What fun that must be on a moonlit night while bells on bobtails ring.

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These little critters have six sides, mostly needle-pointed or rod-shaped designs, sometimes powdery, sometimes wet, and when the temperatures are colder they become larger and more complex in formation. The world’s largest snowflake was found to be 15 inches wide and nearly 8 inches thick. This monster was found in Fort Keogh, Montana, according to January 26, 1887 record-keeping.

Research finds that people buy more cookies, cakes, candy and fruits when there’s a blizzard or snowstorm in the forecast. A snow blizzard is very dangerous. A blizzard occurs when visibility is less than ¼ mile and winds are 40 plus miles per hour. This storm must last at least 4 hours weathermen say to be classified a blizzard. Any conditions less is just a snowstorm. Causing damage to people, trees, rooftops, roads, power lines and traffic nightmares. But we love the excitement of an impending snow. School children love the sound of the local news broadcasts saying schools are closed due to snow. Millions have been made on sleds and shovels and millions lost on salt, brine, and accidents. Wind, cold, moisture, temperature, humidity, height while tumbling through the atmosphere creates unusual combinations of these crystal shapes that make snowflakes; dendrites, plates, needles, thin and solid plates, hollow columns and capped columns just to describe snowflakes. Awe inspiring!

When it is extremely cold, snow is fine and powdery, and the snowflakes are simpler in design, usually like needles and rods. When the temperature is closer to just freezing snowflakes are larger and become more complex in design. At 22 degrees, snowflakes form hollow columns. At 23 degrees, flakes form needles. In bitter cold below minus 30 degrees snowflakes stop forming altogether. Scientists and research cannot explain why. They do say that one should bundle up under layers of warm clothing and water-proof and wind-proof materials, hence, all way home you’ll be home. As the song says, “As long as you love me so, Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

Hexagonal prism is the most basic snow crystal geometry. Prisms can be thin as plates, slender columns or anything in between. Dendrite means tree-like. Stellar dendrites have branches and side branches like an asterisk *. They are typically large crystals. The best powder snow is made of stellar dendrites. Not any good for a snowball fight or building snow-forts. It’s nonetheless still beautiful. Snow makes the world look cleaner, more pristine, cozy, even though it’s cold. “He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone He has made may know his work.” Job 37:5-7

As those tree tops glisten and crooner singer Bing Crosby serenades: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the tree-tops glisten and children listen, to hear sleigh bells in the snow. I’m dreamin’ of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write. May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmas’ be white.”

What Child Is This?

There was an old television program called “Kids Say The Darnest Things” hosted by the late Art Linkletter. It was an impromptu program where the host Mr. Linkletter would have children on his show answering various and obscure questions. The children would answer honestly and candidly. Always roll-all-over-the-floor funny. Pure innocence. The program might have been better titled “Kids Say And Do Dumb Things”. They play with an awe of fantasy, imagination and belief that we adults often call nonsense. But it’s real to them.

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… “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Mar 10:14 NIV

Jesus also called the little children unto himself and said in Matthew 19, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Jesus wanted these little children to come because he loves them and because they have the kind of attitude needed to approach God. He didn’t mean that heaven is only for children, but that people need childlike attitudes of trust in God. The receptiveness of little children was a great contrast to stubbornness of the religious leaders who let their education and sophistication stand in the way of the simple faith needed to believe in Jesus. Jesus says in Proverbs that we are to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” “In the way he should go” is literally “according to his (the child’s ) way.” It is natural to want to bring up all our children alike or train them the same way. This verse implies that parents discern the individuality and special strengths that God has given each one. While we should not condone or excuse self-will, each child has natural inclinations that parents can and should develop. By talking to teachers, parents, grandparents, family members, church guidance counselors, pediatricians and friends and other professionals, we can better discern and develop the individual capabilities of each child. Many parents want to make all the choices for their child, but this might hurt them in the long run. Smothering a child can be detrimental to a child’s development. When a parent teaches a child the right message and paths to follow and how to make good solid decisions, they won’t have to watch every move and step the child takes. The parent will know the child has made the right choice because the parent has trained and provided loving direction for their child. Train your child to make the right choices.

Children are very trusting and have even bigger imaginations during the Christmas season and about Santa Claus, riding in a sleigh up in the air, reindeer flying with red noses, delivering gifts all over the world in one night. After all, don’t we teach them that the Tooth Fairy brings them money for lost teeth, cows jump over the moon, each little girl is a princess and each little boy is a he-man? Be careful what you teach. They love stories and truth. Read the Bible and children will believe in God and His Word and that he is true to his word. Childlike faith isn’t always rational. Children believe what they are told, especially by parents. Tell them about God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit. Tell them about the little child born in a manger. A special child like themselves. This child born in Bethlehem had a pure love for all people. Is there anything purer than the love of a child?

At some point, we all start deciding whom we will love, follow and believe in. But love is not a choice for a child, they just love unconditionally. Be gentle with them. However, we do need to be clear that we do not need to be childish in all our aspects of our walk with Christ. In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Paul is telling the Corinthians here to become spiritually mature, to grow up and quit acting like spiritual babies needing babies milk who need to be spoon fed the Word. He calls them to be more like adults like Jesus—loving adults.

Childhood is wonderful and full of awe, let them enjoy it for the time that they can, but, make no mistake, don’t let them miss and learn about Jesus. This Christmas, let them hear, “O night divine, O night divine, fall on your knees,  O hear the angels voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born.” What a night, what a child was given us, what a Savior. What a glorious birth.