Reflections on the Santa Parade

photo (24)Yesterday was the Santa Parade in Toronto. I love this parade and remember the first time I went to see it in 2003. It was our first Christmas here in Toronto and, having never seen a Christmas Parade before, we set off early to feast our eyes. Every year we made the effort to take our girls and wait in the cold until Santa arrived – until they decided they did not want to go. This year, after many years of not attending, we made the journey again to brave the cold to watch the floats and the marching bands go by. I watched the young children, bundled up in their snowsuits, eagerly waiting for Santa to arrive. I saw the adults spending time together chatting while making sure their children were fed, warm and safely seated in their spots. People huddled together, making the hours spent in the cold one of family. Strangers chatted with one another and many pictures were snapped. One may ask what the Santa Parade has to to with the original meaning of Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ. The floats are sponsored by those who aim at advertising; and the subjects of the floats are far removed from the religious significance of the holiday. The idea of a Father Christmas, and of a man who brings presents to children on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, is far removed from the birth of a child in a stable in Jerusalem. And yet, Santa (or Father Christmas) has become an integral part of Christianity. And the parade? When I look around, I see joy on people’s faces. Standing among the crowd I have a sense of community. I see family and friends spending time together. And surely this is the spirit of Christmas.

What do you think of the Santa Parade?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

Film Review: Son of God

I am always surprised when an obviously Christian film comes out on the cinema circuit. The films that one expects to see on circuit these days are filled with plenty of action, vampires, and societies which may exist in the future. In other words, one expects to see films that will draw crowds and make plenty of money.

When I heard of the film Son of God, I knew the story would be about Jesus and a part of his life. I had a look at the trailer to decide whether or not I should pay to see it and saw that the film focused on the last years of Jesus’ life. The video clip suggested a film containing beautiful panoramic shots, and a link to the events as described in the Bible.

I went to the cinema to watch the film knowing the story. However the way in which the story was filmed touched an emotional chord in my heart: there were many times in the movie when I had to reach for my tissue to wipe the tears from my eyes. Many of Jesus’ words came from the Gospels in the Bible. However, they were sown seamlessly into the story.

The story is told through the voice of John, the disciple of Jesus who lived the longest. He tells of the time when he became a follower of Jesus until the time of the Crucifixion. The film fills in many blanks that are left out in the Bible: the political manoeuvres made by the Sanhedrin, for example.  We are given a glimpse into the personalities of Pontius Pilate as well as Thomas and Judas. The way in which the people during the biblical times lived under Roman rule is also suggested by the way the many are treated under the authority of the Roman prefect.

I enjoyed the scenes laid out before me as I watched the film. The cinematography and the way in which the characters were portrayed literally brought tears to my eyes. The machinations of the Temple’s high priest and the coldness of Pontius Pilate is well played. When my children are old enough, this is one film I will introduce them to. (The age restriction for the film is 14).

Do you enjoy watching Biblical films?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

The Day Before Christmas

It is the day before Christmas and things are almost ready for tomorrow’s celebration: gifts are bought, fridge is stocked with the making of a meal, laundry is up to date, and the Christmas spirit abounds. While wrapping presents and doing the finishing touches to my home, I enjoy listening to my CD of Christmas Carols.

A christmas celebration would be lacking without Away in a Manger:

Or even Silent Night:

Among my favourites is Come All Ye Faithful:

And of course Angels We Have Heard On High:

The music, for me, is a part of what makes Christmas.

Christmas in the post-War United States

I would like to wish all my blogger friends a Merry Christmas. Enjoy the time spent with your loved ones as you celebrate the birth of Christ. For those who do do celebrate Christmas, I wish you a wonderful holiday with your family.

Share in the comments below you favourite Christmas song. I know I will enjoy listening to it. 🙂

Infinite Tranquillity

The moment I step into a church I sense the tranquillity of the place – especially when the church has emptied of its occupants and there are no longer voices echoing between the walls.

Inside a Mauritian church. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2013
Inside a Mauritian church. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

The rows of benches stretch over the interior of the quiet church give one the impression of infinite tranquillity.

What do you sense when you step inside a church?

(This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge by WordPress)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

Thoughts on Mercy

Mercy is not often a word we hear in our everyday discussions. It seems to be an old-fashioned term that has been replaced by tolerance and politically correct expressions. Open the newspaper and there are no stories that encapsulate the meaning of mercy. Instead stories of intolerance abound in which one group insists that they are the ones representing sanity.

For me the word mercy is closely intertwined with the word forgiveness. If one shows mercy, one is often able to forgive the shortcomings of others and their surroundings – including their religious and cultural beliefs. The merciful heart is already open to humanity and is not as judgemental as those hearts that are hardened and show no mercy. The merciful heart is also open to love – love for one’s fellow human being whether the person is a family member, friend or a stranger.

A perfect example comes to mind when I think of mercy: Jesus and the way in which he treated those in society that were often rejected because of their social standing. Think of Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, and the tax collectors he came across. He showed mercy to these people: he opened his heart to them and loved them for the human beings that they were. His actions towards them were not coloured with intolerance, misunderstanding and prejudice.

If we could be merciful towards one another on a daily basis, maybe we could work towards moving to a society that is more merciful. Maybe, once again, the word mercy can become a part of our everyday vocabulary.

What is your understanding of mercy?

(This post was inspired by this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt)

A Story of God and of All of Us

This book, A Story of God and of All of Us, was written by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. I am almost tempted, however, to say “rewritten” as the original story was recorded by the many authors of The Holy Bible. The novel is based on the scripts written by the authors, in collaboration with theologians and biblical experts, for the TV miniseries called The Bible.

The novel follows the stories found in The Bible faithfully – both in events and characterisations. The major events are described from the Old Testament through to the New: from the story of Abraham, to Moses, to King David, to Samson, to the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, to the story of the first Apostles.

I enjoyed reading this book even though I had read and heard these Bible stories many times. The stories are written in modern English with narrative that is easily understood by the reader. The novel reads like any other you may pick up. The story flows easily from one event to the next; capturing and holding your attention. A copy of this book is certainly a keeper; a book that can be read easily to refresh one’s memory of the Bible stories. I know that I will encourage my children to read it as it will help them to know and recognise the order of events in a book that forms an integral part of our Christian beliefs.

I wish now to watch the miniseries – it looks to be as good as the novel:

Have you read this novel, or seen the TV miniseries? What was your response?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

Beloved

Dignum et iustum est
Photo credit: Lawrence OP

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here…”

Words often heard when sitting on a hard wooden bench on a Sunday morning. The words imply a strong community. One in which all members are loved for who they are: followers of Christ. I can imagine the early missionaries saying these words to their converts – and saying them with sincerity. I can imagine the small groups of early Christians gaining comfort from one another especially during their persecution while under the Roman Empire.

But now, when I hear these words, I am surrounded by strangers – many of whom I do not see every week. The words are said by a man who has not made any connection with the people who come, week after week, to hear what he has to say about the Word of God. Yes, the modern church-goer and Christian believer is beloved: beloved by God. But beloved by the other members of the Christian community? This is not what I sense when I attend mass at a large parish church in the city. I have felt beloved by my fellow community members when attending a small parish church – but not when I do so at a large one. Instead, when the priest walks out the front doors of the church at the end of mass, believers stream out after him and then go their own way.

Modern life and the rush to get to where we are going seems to have taken away an important aspect of the way in which we view our fellow believers. I pray for a time when we can once again look at other Christians and called them “beloved” with sincerity in our hearts.

Do you feel “beloved” in your Christian community?

(This post was inspired by the prompt “beloved” posted by Lisa-Jo Baker)

Christmas is Coming

3am, Dubai Airport
(Photo credit: joiseyshowaa)

The Christmas craze has begun. People are descending on stores in search of that “perfect gift” for friends and family. The tinny sound of Christmas carols and Christmas pop songs are ignored as shoppers mill in the malls. Advertisements proclaim that a visit to a particular store will  be the last stop as all holiday needs will be met!

I try to avoid the crowds of Christmas shoppers as I flit in and out of stores late in November to purchase a small gift at one store, or a tin of biscuits at another. I know I cannot avoid the supermarket the few days before Christmas day to buy the makings of our Christmas meal; but I know I can avoid the incessant noise, the crying toddlers, the irate shoppers, and the repetitive music list continuously playing in the background.

christmas 2007
(Photo credit: paparutzi)

Yes, Christmas is coming as we begin to wear our hats, scarves and boots. We wrap our scarves around our necks and my girls say to me, “Mommy, I wish we could have a white Christmas this year. It would be so awesome!” They think of the fun they could have: making snowmen, throwing snowballs, and creating snow angels. They think not only of the fun, but also of the time they could spend together with their family: laughing with their parents, and having fun with their brother.

To me, Christmas is a holiday that is spent with family. Living far from parents and siblings, my husband and I have come to treasure even more the time we spend during this period with our children. We eat together, laugh together, watch movies together, and talk together. A cushion of love is created as we spend precious time with one another from December 24th to the 28th.

Christmas: Nativity scene
Christmas: Nativity scene (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

But Christmas is more than just shopping for gifts, eating, and spending time with one’s family. It is a time of remembrance: it is a time during which people remember the birth of Jesus Christ – a man whose beliefs became the catalyst for change in a religion. On Christmas day, we not only think of Santa Claus who comes during the night with arms filled with gifts; but we also think of the man who is pivotal in a Christian’s belief. We think of his birth and what it means to believe he was born to help us be closer to God.

It is my wish for Christmas that these holidays people think of more than just gifts and buying the material items that are on their wish list. As they sip their peppermint-flavoured coffees, I wish that they would remember why we celebrate Christmas at all.

What are your preparations for the coming holidays?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

(Join Kellie Elmore every Friday to free write a response to a quote, poem, image or thought that she has posted. Free write means you pay no attention to editing, your imagination runs free, and you stop only when you are trying too hard to complete a thought.This week the prompt is a word bank.)

Jesus, the Light

I take part in the Five Minute Friday Challenge hosted by The Gypsy Mama. For this challenge, participants write for 5 minutes with no editing, no over thinking, and no backtracking. This week’s prompt is: Light

Jesus, the Light

As Christians we are told that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the light”.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thinking on today, a day on which we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, it is difficult to see Him as representing the light. When we think of the crucifixion we think of pain, sorrow, disappointment and the snuffing of a light in the life of Jesus the man. We think of betrayal in the form of Judas; and of a mother’s grief in the tears of Mary. We think of the mockery of a belief in the taunts of the soldiers; and of those who wash their hands of the problems of others.

But when we remember the day of the crucifixion, we know that soon we will remember the resurrection of Jesus, of the light that He represents. The resurrection shows us that our belief in God, our belief in Jesus, can shine forth from us – just as the light shone forth from Jesus with the resurrection. Our belief in the light of Jesus can guide us through the darkness of the uncertainty in our lives, and our ignorance of God.

So let us think today not only on the darkness of the crucifixion, but also on the knowledge and belief that Jesus is our guiding light in the lives that we are living.

In what way is Jesus your light?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

This Little Light

Each week Jakesprinters suggests a theme for creative inspiration. You can post your response to the theme on your blog anytime before the following Sunday when the next theme is announced. Your response can be either a photo, a video, music or a piece of writing. Remember to post your link in the comments section of the weekly challenge.

This week’s prompt is: Light

This Little Light

When I think back on the Christian songs I sang when a child, This Little Light of Mine is  one which springs to mind. I remember singing it with enthusiasm without really understanding what I was singing.

Later I learned that the little light was not only the love of Jesus and God shining through me, but also my inner self: my inner self that had been permeated with God’s love. I was singing that I was going to keep my love for God shining through – that I was not going to hide what I believed in. I was also going to show the love of God in my actions towards others, and in my love for them.

The message of this children’s song has been remade as a message for today’s generation by LZ7. The message is clear: help others and accept them as you have been accepted by God: A God who accepts all no matter who they are. The video shows a few examples of how we can let God’s love shine through to others.

Thinking on the message of this song – both the version sung by the Cedermont Kids and LZ7 – I realise that the message is relevant to us no matter how old we are. Let God’s love for us shine through to others; let our actions, words, and demeanour show that we are Children of God filled with His love.

Do you let your light shine?