If you still believe in Santa Claus, please avert your eyes from the screen right now.
For the rest of you, how old were you when you realized that there wasn’t really a Santa Claus?
Five or six? Nine or ten? Thirty?
For me, the realization came on bit by bit over the years when I was little.
First off, on the gift tags on my Christmas presents, I noticed that the “To Lori, Love Santa” inscription was written in handwriting that looked an awful lot like my Mom’s. In fact, exactly like hers. I realized that it was, in fact, my Mom’s handwriting, not Santa’s.
That was my first inkling that something was up with this whole Santa thing.
When we think of the Christmas story, we often focus on the birth of Jesus as the only miraculous event that occurred.
And indeed it was an awesome miracle: the virgin birth of a baby who would become the Saviour of the world.
But there was another miraculous birth that happened around the same time, described only in the gospel of Luke.
The angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive without having had relations with her betrothed, Joseph. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she would give birth to a son, who was to be called Jesus.
This was no doubt astounding news to Mary. But the angel didn’t stop there: he had another amazing news flash.
“The footprints are still there,” the article began.
Whose footprints? And where?
The article was talking about the footprints of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the ten others who have walked on the moon.
Astonishingly, their footprints are still there. It’s been over 50 years since humans first walked on the lunar landscape, but the moon’s dusty surface is still marked with our historic bootprints.
How can this be?
After all, here on earth, footprints in the dirt can be washed away by rain days later. An imprint of a foot on a sandy beach might be erased in seconds by an incoming wave. Other people or vehicles can trample a footprint, cancelling it out.
But it’s different on the moon. The moon has no atmosphere, and therefore no breezes or rain to erode any footprints. Earth’s satellite also doesn’t get a lot of visitors, so no one else’s footprints or vehicle tracks have obscured those made half a century ago.
Scientists suggest that the lunar footprints of the astronauts might last a million years, maybe almost as long as the moon itself continues to exist.
That couldn’t happen here on earth. Or could it?
Are there footprints on earth that will last for millennia or eons, or even for eternity?
It can be hard to hold on to hope when winter is coming, can’t it?
The trees and shrubs seem barren of any evidence that life will ever reemerge. It can be rather depressing.
But if you look closely at certain plants during winter, you’ll see something exciting:
Yes, some plants, such as magnolias, actually set their flower buds for next year during the previous growing season. You can see these buds on the branches all winter long.
In the case of magnolias, the buds are encased in a hairy protective scale to insulate them from the cold, almost like a silvery fur coat. When the time is right the next spring, the flowers are all ready to burst open into glorious bloom.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that the promise of next year’s flowers is already there during the bleak winter?
In the same way, the seeds of your comeback are forming deep within you.
Don’t you just love cookies shaped like little people, such as gingerbread men and women?
I always start munching on gingerbread people at the head. According to a survey conducted by the folks at Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m not alone. Almost two thirds of people surveyed start at the top when eating a gingerbread figure. A fifth of people begin with the legs, while the remainder go for the arms first. (To make some gingerbread cookies yourself, see below for a classic recipe.)
We seem to have a penchant for foods shaped like bodies, or at least named after various body parts.
There are chicken fingers, kidney beans, artichoke hearts, navel oranges, black-eyed peas, heads of lettuce, ladyfingers and elbow macaroni.
The Italians have given us pasta shapes like orecchiette (little ears), linguini (little tongues), and capellini (angel’s hair). In France, cotton candy is called, “Dad’s beard.”
Our bodies are precious to us and are wondrously made, so it’s no wonder we pay tribute to them by naming foods after our various body parts.
But did you know that if you’re a believer, you don’t just have your own body, you’re a part of another body, too?
How have you been sleeping recently? Do you find yourself waking at night, worried about the future?
Wish you could sleep as soundly as your pet?
Cats and dogs have an advantage when it comes to sleeping deeply. They’re predator animals: in the wild, canines and felines are hunters. Large predator mammals generally spend more time in deep non-REM sleep than their prey.
Prey animals such as rabbits or deer, the hunted, spend more time in lighter non-REM sleep. They also experience very little REM sleep at all. Their survival is dependent on being permanently alert, and the paralysis of REM sleep would make them too vulnerable to their predators.
I wonder if the poor sleep we humans often experience relates to our feeling “hunted,” relentlessly chased by worries, deadlines, and obligations?
Is there a way we can calm our anxious minds and get a good night’s rest?
Yes! I believe the Bible offers some tips to help us sleep better.
The joyful symphony of birdsong that graced the spring and summer months has diminished. In these parts, most birds have already flown south for the winter by now. The backyards and parks seem unnaturally quiet, with nary a chirp to be heard.
It can leave us feeling bereft, like we’re all alone.
But we’re never as alone as we might think, as we’ll see from some encouraging accounts in the Bible.
While going for a walk recently at a track in my neighbourhood, I noticed something that hadn’t been there before.
There was now a second path parallel to the old gravel track circling the playing fields. This new footpath had been beaten into the grass over the summer and fall by people wanting to jog while still physically distancing from those on the main path.
It got me thinking how events in our lives often make us forge a new path.
For just about all of us, the coronavirus has diverted our life path onto an unexpected detour. Some of us may have experienced a job loss or had our health impacted. All of us have had our daily routines disrupted and our plans upended.
We’re having to travel a new path, one we’ve never taken before.
But the good news is that God knows which way we should go, and will lead us in the right direction.