Vol 1 No. 24 Christmas Letter

The mosaic instructions in Deuteronomy could easily apply to our Christmas preparations:

 You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on you forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. (Deut. 11:18-19)

 We are asked to create symbolic remembrances of God’s gifts and truths for us (some of the Christmas images; the star of the Nativity scene, the Christmas cycle of readings and the Advent cycle of candles, themes and readings) We are called to teach them (verse19) and talk about them everywhere: at home and away; imagine saying Merry Christmas at work, or mentioning that you are going to a Christmas eve service. Oh horrors! We are also asked to hold them in our hearts when we lie down in the stillness of the night and when we rise up first thing in the morning. What we celebrate in the aforementioned verses is the Christmas message of the arrival of Jesus.

It is essential to form traditions, ‘rituals’ and household and Church patterns around celebrations like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and rites of conversion, communion and baptism. What patterns and traditions do you have? Have you renewed those rituals, memories and traditions lately? My own extended family has a Bible reading and prayer at thanksgiving, Christmas, major anniversaries and Easter.

Here are some of the traditions that were passed on to me as a child and young man by my own family. These traditions and gifts have changed my life. When I graduated from grade 12, I was given a Bible for my ‘adult years’. When I turned 21 I was asked what I wanted and I requested two things: a complete set of the Narnia Chronicles and a recording of Handel’s Messiah. Both were spiritually formative in my growing years, both have profoundly renewed and fed me at key junctures of personal spiritual need. I want to talk about these two gifts (of Christmas theme!) for just a moment.

Christ’s references to a child’s understanding and receptivity to the gospel are well known as are the references in Isaiah to the promised child. We sometimes find the message of the faith more available and accessible when it comes in a more ‘child-like’ form; the Christmas story, carols, even songs like ‘Jesus Loves Me’ come to mind. Here is the dedication to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe(a dedication that if any of the print reviewers had read they would have unlocked at least some of the Narnia myster.)


My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear and too old to understand, a word you say, Baptist Union of Western Canada but I shall still be

          your affectionate Godfather,

            C.S. Lewis


The Narnia Chronicles have sold almost a hundred million volumes to date. They are about to embark on an even more significant cultural influence with the release of the new film this Christmas. I would like to commend the film to you, as one of the best I’ve seen. A proper review of it will follow in the weeks ahead. Sufficed it to say, that it’s impact on me is spiritually renewing, and a great gift reminding me of the presence of Christ in the midst of the Advent Season. The Narnia Chronicles, as Lewis correctly writes, are indeed fairy tales. The Christmas story, quite clearly, is not. Christ is truth incarnate. It may be that the special gift of Jesus at Christmas has been lost to you in recent years. The mystery of the incarnation has been misplaced. Just as Lewis wrote in his dedication in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “some day you will be old enough to start reading Fairy Tales again”. My encouragement here is for us to rediscover the wonderful mystery of the incarnation; whether you see that mystery through the eyes of a child or an adult.

Let me briefly mention Handel’s Messiah, which I heard recently in Calgary, under the direction Ivars Taurins. I have heard the Messiah performed live almost two dozen times and have never heard a stronger choir, a more passionate conductor or a more moving soloist than Daniel Taylor.  The messiah, as many of you will know, has a libretto comprised solely of scripture, hence its power. I cannot convey to you the experience because it is interpreted by the holy spirit to every Christian who hears it. Yet my own experience this year – seeing the Narnia film, listening to the Messiah and reading advent scriptures – reflects George Frederic Handel’s comment as he wrote the Messiah: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!”

I am reticent to be so intensely personal in these observations, yet I wish to direct us, to four central themes in this Christmas newsletter:

  • the deuteronomic exhortation to teach and gift our children and one another well
  • In Narnia, Mr. Beaver, referring to the Aslan as the Christ says, “‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’” Christ comes to us this Christmas, not as a child playing safely in a manger, but as the savior and redeemer, bent on changing me.
  • Handel’s words of scripture to music resonate in our lives and remind us that God is a God of surprises. May we be open this Christmas to the surprises he has for us.
  • Lastly, may we take these last four days to read these simple passages, to reground ourselves if we have lost our footing.
    • Wednesday, December 21: Isaiah 9: 6-7.
    • Thursday, December 22: Isaiah 11:1-10
    • Friday, December 23: Luke 1 and Matthew 1
    • Saturday, December 24: Luke 2:1-7
    • Christmas Day: Luke 2: 8-20



A very Merry Christmas to all,


In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Advent 2005