I have just counted, and discovered that Christmas day is but 37 days away... 5 weeks and two days... the latter sounds further away and more manageable. How come the year between successive Christmases seems shorter and passes faster as one gets older?
My mind turns back to those years when we were raising our sons, and often can’t believe how we managed to attend, and sometimes help organise the year-end functions, school concerts, church and Sunday school activities, and also crafted those handmade gifts and decorations? We then owned a beautiful German Shepherd named Pontius, whose life revolved around jogging with the family and tennis balls to chase and catch, and every year a brand new ball was faithfully wrapped, tied with ribbon, and placed under the Christmas tree with the rest of the family gifts. He knew the ritual, and on cue would approach the tree, sniff out his gift and in a dignified manner proceed to unwrap it; somehow the Christmas day ball throwing was enjoyed the most.
This Christmas we will have another puppy to share the celebration... some of you will have met our Mandy, who we adopted from KAWS as a mutual 50 th Wedding anniversary gift. Her Christmas present will be easy – anything that can be chased, chewed, tossed around, torn to shreds, dived under, jumped over or growled and barked at. At four months of age, anyone’s fingers or toes will do, and a walk to discover more delights of nature will be the proverbial cherry on the top. To date she has discovered birds of varying sizes and shapes, the mongoose who views her with suspicion, frustrating butterflies who can’t be caught, annoying frogs who jump into ponds and boring tortoises who simply retire into their shells. Fascinated by the dung beetles, she nevertheless seems to disapprove of their habits, and growls and barks as the beetle’s prize disappears down the hole. Ants are fun to chase, but always get away...
The lure of the sea is irresistible to South Africans at Christmas time, and the holiday species of Homo Sapiens is due soon. They tend to arrive in groups large and small and frequent beaches for maximum lengths of daylight hours in minimum amounts of body covering. Some of them tend to suffer from diminished comprehension when it comes to obeying municipal rules for cleanliness of long stretches of sand and protection of bird life and dune plants, but unfortunately, as with our baboons, they have a seasonal right to be there. Let us grit our teeth, bite our tongues, count to ten, and urge them politely to use the refuse bins, etc. However, we do enjoy the friendly, nature loving majority who share our conviction that Betty’s Bay is the most beautiful place on earth, and deserves to be kept in pristine condition for local fauna, flora, and permanent resident humans... us, naturally!
Some of our number will be fortunate enough to travel to other countries and experience a white Christmas, such as used to be depicted on those beautiful old Christmas cards sent by snail mail, when the postman delivered them to your post box or front door, before the days of postal strikes and Christmas e-mails. It was my ambition, at the tender age of about four, to paint my own pictures on those exciting cards and send them all over the world, and today’s kids find graphics on the internet and click on “send”... but back to the travellers – may your journeys be safe, your Christmas be blessed with the warmth of family love and friendship, and may you return with wonderful memories to share with us.
To all who stay behind, may you have the opportunity to pause between the various stages of preparations and enjoy the season of peace and goodwill while it lasts. I have had the opportunity to read about the lives of authors of the beloved old Christmas Carols, and their lives, on the whole, were anything but quiet and serene, yet the words they penned live on in hearts all over the world, centuries later. My prayer this year is that we all will open our ears to the message of the coming to earth of the Son of God, open our eyes to recognize His Deity, our ears to take in and enjoy the songs of the angels, and open our hearts in response to the overwhelming love of God behind it all. 1 John 4:14 - 16 reads: “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.”
A last note of warning to the sunbathers on the beaches... not all dogs will be on the required-by-law leads, and our little Jack Russell dynamo runs off at the speed of lightning with any small garments not securely fastened...