Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Another Christmas Dinner!

January 4, 2014 Leave a comment

post-Christmas roast dinner

roasted beef bone marrow with caramelised onions roast beef (topside)

It was good to meet a group of Malaysians visiting London. They were elders of a little church in Johor Bahru and we had good chats about local issues. Then we had a stranded Brit to stay. She couldn’t get home because of the flooding around her house – loads to chat about living as a Christian in the workplace, and about love and marriage.

There is great joy in meeting fellow brothers and sisters for the first time and finding that, because of our common paternity, we are able, almost straight off, to speak intimately about various things (with or without several glasses of champagne).

(It was interesting to observe the vastly different food preferences of ethnic types/backgrounds: the Asians disliked cheese and cured meats, wanted only very little beef and carbs but very much preferred their meat well-done, and shunned dessert, mulled wine, and mincepies (“too sweet!”). Unfortunately, the host who has often been called a “banana” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) by the Asian crowd hadn’t thought about this. Happily though, the said host accidentally stayed around chatting in church for far too long so the pot roast did emerge well-done afterall.)

For my own information – cost of Christmas dinner for 12 (£2.12 per person):
British beef topside (1.5kg) £13.55 (Waitrose, discounted)
Brussel sprouts on stalk (x3) £2.09 (Waitrose, discounted)
Smoked lardons £1.93 (Waitrose)
Carrots and parsnips £0.88 (Asda)
Bacon and sausage for pigs in blankets (£2.00) (Lidl)
Roast potatoes with goose fat £2.99 (Waitrose, discounted)
Yorkshire pudding £1.00 (Aldi)
Marrow £1.00 (Waitrose)

Advertisements

Holiday Hospitality and Holiness

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Crazy festive festivities, holistic holidaying.
orange pomander
Roast lunch and strawberry pavlova with a bunch of Aussies, as an honorary Aussie:

Sunday roast lunch
strawberry pavlova

One of many Christmas dinners, this one with the Romans bible study group:
small group Christmas dinner

This one was a an older couple’s large house. It took them 6 hours to properly decorate the place with large swaths of red, lots of tinsel, mistletoe, holly on the chandeliers, a large Christmas tree pine by the grand piano etc, and it was lovely:

Christmas dinner

Various people also kindly bought meals saying it was in gratitude for work done during the year:
Nando's chicken

And mixed in with all that, birthday brunches:
Breakfast at The Empress, Victoria Park

Christmas Day lunch at mine – we collected everyone who didn’t have a place to go after the Christmas Day Service and brought them home. Managed to squeeze 18 people around two tables in our small (and very messy) kitchen:
Christmas Day lunch
brussel sprouts in a wokcheese and chacuterie board

The first of many to stay in our living room this Christmas was a south-east asian girl – a friend of someone I’d met at New Word Alive earlier this year. She had a refreshingly bottomless stomach and there were good conversations over many 3rd/4th helpings:
chicken curry dinner for a Vietnamese girlOn Boxing Day, she surprised us by bursting into tears as she said her goodbyes, sobbing that she was overwhelmed that strangers would welcome her into their house, feed her so well, and take good care of her. Sensitive as ever, I just pointed at her and laughed. A housemate was kinder and explained that Christians show love to strangers because of the love first shown to us by Jesus, who loved the unloveable.

It hadn’t occurred to me that hospitality was a particularly Christian thing to do. But there it is in Romans 12:13 – “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” and in 1 Peter 4:9 – “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”, the Greek for “hospitality” (“philozenia”), if the commentators are to be believed, being a portmanteau of philos (meaning “affection”) and zenos (meaning “stranger”).

Of course the glossies and foodie shows spur us to a form of hospitality that is more performance than service – the wonderful decor and table settings, the well-plated food, the atmosphere either of understated sophistication or carefully curated comfort. This entertainment is, in its way, delightful, but domestic goddess-ness is probably not the hospitality envisaged by the Bible writers.

In Scripture, hospitality:

  • seems to be directed in the context of love – an expression of having received God’s love and an expression of Christian love to others;
  • primarily to other Christians (though not of the same local church)(Romans 12, 1 Peter 4, Hebrews 13); and
  • appears to encompass the provision of lodging and food to strangers, tending to the sick, visiting people in prison (Matthew 25:31-46), and including aliens (not necessarily of the green-with-antennae variety) in communal meals.

If hospitality is about the home, the food may not be top quality (although one should probably not, as I accidentally did, feed expired milk to one’s guest…twice…). The house may be a bit of a mess, and the bedclothes mayn’t match. There will probably not be anything outstanding for one’s guest to tweet or blog or update their Facebook status about. The disorderliness of the house would preclude any interest from Pininterest. But the focus isn’t on the host(ess) but the guest and his/her comfort.

And so how one views one’s God-given accommodation and assets would also be different – not a little Hobbit-hole into which we retreat to and jealously guard from the world but a sacrificially open door for brothers and sisters and so treated as such: a living room fitted with ugly but practical sofa-beds, a cumbersome but good stash of folding chairs and stacking stools for large gatherings, etc.

grilled pork ribsAs a housemate and I were eating the leftovers with a rack of grilled ribs the day after, we chatted about this whole hospitality thing, understanding that it was the outflow of a relationship with God would require different changes of mindset from different groups of people. The housemate serves a group that consists of young working adults who are ethnically Chinese, most Mandarin-speaking; I serve people who range from their 20s to 80s, and are mostly ethnically Caucasian and from the United Kingdom. It could be that one group would have to be encouraged to keep showing hospitality but be made to understand that this isn’t just courtesy and a sign of a well-brought-up individual but a command from God. And the other group might have be to encouraged to look at their living space and other assets (including time, energy, comfort) less self-centredly. But of course, courses for horses.

Hand-painted Water-colour Post-holiday Thank You Cards Just Like They Make ’em In The Country

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Hand-painted Water-colour Post-Christmas Thank You Cards
A quiet day at home making Thank You cards with the nice smooth Pentel Poster Colours and brushes that someone’d brought over from Singapore. Card designs inspired, naturally, by the homey flora and fauna painted on tourist kitsch in Switzerland.

Coupled this with a few choice talks about the importance of systematic theology, several simultaneous conversations on Whatasapp about near-deaths and funding for missionaries and dinners in the week ahead, and attempted to eat pad thai & drink tom yam soup (instead of the paint at the end of the brush that, at times, was mistaken for the fork).

A decade ago, it would be unseemly to give real friends such amateur attempts at painting. But now, one imagines it might possibly be appreciated – because of the supposed authenticity of the gesture, just like home-baked treats and home-brewed beer by home-grown beards (paired with plaid shirts and corduroy trousers and high leather boots).

The cult of authenticity pervades the church as well, but it is usually the self-centered sort that makes excuses for our many sins – mostly, as sins are, of thinking too much of ourselves: “Oh ho! I can’t help hogging the conversation and talking about myself all the time,” booms the self-professed extrovert* proudly to all who will listen. “Erm, I can’t help running away from everyone else and being by my comfortable old self,” mumbles the self-confessed introvert* from his little corner, etc.

*regardless of the veracity of such distinctions

Christmas Day in London

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Back home after 9 hours of eating and drinking and laughing. Now to open the rest of a pile of Christmas presents over mulled wine and hot mince pies!

Christmas in London Christmas in London
Christmas in London Christmas in London

Thank God for a church community loving enough to look after the foreigners in their midst during the festive season, with an impressive number of invites to open homes and open lives.

Christmas in London Christmas in London
Christmas in London Christmas in London

Thank God for his Son born into this world, to save sinners from the just wages of their sin, and to bring them not just in intimate relationship with God, but in intimate fellowship with each other (John 17:21-22).

Advent Festivities

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

A rash of Advent festivities and get-togethers.

Kind friends came bearing gifts from Singapore – things not needed nor hankered for (Prima Taste pastes, Chinese herbs from Eu Yan Sang) but gratefully received nonetheless.

We introduced first-timers to time-honoured student haunts like old Belgo Centraal:

Belgo Central Belgo Central
Belgo Central Belgo Central
Belgo Central Belgo Central

The Beat-the-Clock special may not exactly be value-for-money compared to sourcing your own mussels from Billingsgate, but tasty enough to warm up, washed down with decent beers. Plus there’s the slight entertainment of waitstaff in monk outfits.

Then of course we had to visit a pasar malam – the nearest being the Southbank Christmas Market:

Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market Southbank Christmas Market

on offer were mulled wine, sausages and an assortment of hot salty meats, liquorice, gingerbread, board games, funny winter hats, rides on an attractively garish carousel.

Further along the river, smiling people emerged from the carol service at Southwark Cathedral:

Southwark Cathedral Carol Service Southwark Cathedral Carol Service

Two days later, after a celebration brunch that stretched far into lunch, we walked straight into a flash mob of Santa Clauses coming to town outside the Tate Modern, with reinforcements arriving from Nelson’s Column via St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral

In a tube station, university carollers had tubs out for “Mary’s Boy Child”:

Carollers in a Tube Station

Piles of mincepies awaited the outcome of silly Christmas party entertainment at The School:

Piles of mincepies Christian Christmas Party Game

More mincepies, some stollen, piles of clementines, and vats of mulled wine, amid tombs and memorials, too awaited the end of a city carol service at St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate:

Carol Service
Carol Service Carol Service
Carol Service Carol Service

Another celebration lunch, this time at Bluu (1 Hoxton Square), with our Secret Santa stash under the Christmas tree, many failed crackers, loads of tactless banter:

Advent lunch at Bluu, Hoxton Advent lunch at Bluu, Hoxton

A good snapshot of what many would bemoan to be the commercialisation or paganisation of Christmas – I mean, seriously, Christmas trees, mince pies, stollen, mulled wine, clementines in a church service?! And all those festive meals and drunk Santas – what about the reason for the season? What about putting the Christ back into Christmas?

I’m personally not at all averse to paper crowns, baubles, and glitter, because:

  • who can say ‘no’ to a party (or rather, a whole season of parties)? Woohoo!;
  • Christians have the best reason to party;
  • the more merrymakers, the merrier!

But still, there is the sad emptiness of those partying without a real reason to rejoice. If only everyone could see what a marvellous thing it is to be loved by God, who sent his Son to save us from his wrath and reconcile us to himself, not after we decided to turn and repent, but while we were still ungodly, sinners, enemies of God:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

The gift of Jesus, the gift of reconciliation and salvation, is totally free – we did nothing to deserve it, nor could any amount of good works ever earn us a relationship with the holy God who cannot but destroy sinful humans, if he is to be perfectly righteous and just.

%d bloggers like this: