The Great Frost of 2020
Holidays | Opinion

The Great Frost of 2020

The winter of 1709 was a killer. In England it was called “The Great Frost.” In France it was called “Le Grand Hiver.” Over three weeks in early January, temperatures dropped across Europe to levels not seen in 500 years. The Mediterranean Sea froze. Trees exploded. Livestock died in the barns. In Switzerland, wolves prowled…

A uniquely illustrated Christmas tale
Family Life | Holidays | Reviews

A uniquely illustrated Christmas tale

Young Jo, her infant brother, and ill, single mother are cast out into the elements on Christmas Eve. Though Jo plans to leave town on a bus with her family, the fierce, unruly winter wind pushes them in the direction of Franklin Murdoch’s barn and house. Jo is afraid of the man, known in the community as mean and crusty; the death of his wife and baby on a Christmas Eve long ago had apparently turned him into a nasty person.

A stone for christmas
Church Life | Holidays | Opinion

A stone for christmas

I am giving stones for Christmas. No, not lumps of coal for the naughty, although 2020 might deserve it. I am giving geodes – plain-looking rocks on the outside, with hollow centers of beautiful crystalline structures. Geodes have been significant in my ministry. As the first pastor of Pathway Ministries in Byron Center, Michigan, I…

Better angels
Holidays | Opinion

Better angels

If we can’t get angels, there is nothing anyone on the planet wants more for Christmas this year than a vaccine for the coronavirus. We are told it’s on the way, but we must be patient. A global pandemic can’t be subdued in a day. This is our first COVID Christmas, and hopefully, by God’s…

An uneasy Christmas
Family Life | Holidays | Opinion

An uneasy Christmas

“Let’s pack this Christmas issue, our last of the year, with uplifting content” (Angela Reitsma Bick, CC Editor, in her pre-Christmas email to columnists). I have always had an uneasy relationship with Christmas. Perhaps that stems from my childhood upbringing in a conservative Dutch Canadian Reformed family. We went out of our way to distance…

Slowing Down
Family Life | Features | Holidays

Slowing Down

For 20 years, I hated Christmas. Or perhaps hate is too strong a word. It’s more accurate to say that Christmas was exhausting, and always I dreaded its arrival. As a pastor with four children I worked hard to have gifts bought and wrapped by the first Sunday in Advent because the month of December…

A melancholy Christmas
Holidays | Opinion

A melancholy Christmas

Melancholy isn’t what it used to be. During the medieval period, our physical and mental wellbeing were thought to be shaped by four fluids circulating in our bodies: blood, phlegm, white bile and black bile. In the Greek language, black bile is melaina chole – melancholy. It was thought that high levels of black bile…

Christmas On The Edge
Art | Holidays | Poetry

Christmas On The Edge

We were delighted to feature Caitlin Ambery’s painting, “Christmas at the Old Quick Church” alongside Malcolm Guite’s poem “Christmas on the Edge” in our 2019 Christmas print issue. Cathy Smith muses on the painting, “Christmas at the Old Quick Church”: Here’s a church at the edge. Nothing around it, no other buildings. All by itself…

The waiting year
Family Life | Holidays | Opinion

The waiting year

“Heap on more wood! The wind is chill;But let it whistle as it will,We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.”Sir Walter Scott When I was little, my mother quilted an advent calendar. It was a pre-printed fabric scene – chipmunks making popcorn chains, I believe – that she made three-dimensional with batting and stitches, and 24…

A Lenten Year
Church Life | Holidays | Opinion

A Lenten Year

COVID-19 has changed our lives in ways we don’t want them changed. And it will change our Christmas celebrations in significant ways, but I’m wondering, as difficult as those changes will be, if the pandemic might have a positive impact on our celebrations. Could COVID-19 deepen our experience of Grace from Advent to Easter and…

WITH US
Family Life | Holidays | Opinion

WITH US

“So, when are we decorating for Christmas?” My oldest turned to me and asked, as she does every year when the calendar marks November. If you’ve read my column in the past, you’ll know she’s also the one who programs my kitchen radio to every station that only plays Christmas music. The kid has an…