As the year 2021 winds down, this slightly distracted editor is trying to wrangle disparate ideas into a cohesive whole. What I offer here instead is a sort of patchwork quilt of thoughts, resembling the traditional coverlets created from fabric of varied colours, sizes and textures.
Claiming the story
Of all the symbols of Christmas, the one I connect with most is the Nativity scene. As a lover of Bible stories, I will gladly skip Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the lights—and even the presents—to focus on the people and events of that special Birth Day.
As a child, I would climb on the piano bench to play with the plaster figures of my family’s Nativity set arranged on the top of the piano. I would touch the angel atop the wooden stable, help the shepherds and the magi march up from a distance, and carefully place Baby Jesus into the manger.
In my adult years, I have accumulated a modest collection of nativity sets: wooden, felt, glass and plastic. The one with elongated black wooden characters, from the country formerly called Zaire, reminds me of today’s Christians living out their faith on the African continent. The one with puzzle pieces that fit into a stable-shaped frame reminds me of the unemployed man who made it many years ago, in another place, and I pray for all jobless people today, far away and in my own city. The set carved out of olivewood from Bethlehem reminds me of the followers of Jesus in the Bible lands—their devotion and their love of family Christmas celebrations. The tiny round Jesus, Mary and Joseph, crafted of painted marbles, come from Brazil, the place of my childhood and where I first embraced the Christian story as my own.
It is amazing that people of many ethnicities and different life circumstances, all around the world, can claim the story of Jesus as their inspiration. Even though we know that the Jesus of history lived in the context of first-century Palestine, each of us sees him today with eyes of faith, through our own cultural eyeglasses. Across the years and the geography, the meaning of Jesus’ birth takes on new relevance in ever new contexts. (Have you seen a depiction of the Covid Holy Family created out of blue surgical masks?!)
As part of your Christmas celebration this year, may I suggest that you find a depiction of the Nativity story and spend quiet moments meditating on that story’s significance, in history and in your own life? Once again we celebrate the love that the Nativity story reveals to each of us, wherever we might find ourselves. Merry Christmas!
Food and community
Food often plays a role in holiday celebrations, helping to build community and create memories. Over the past six years, in CM’s occasional column, Gathering Around the Table, readers have shared their stories and recipes of food that have meaning for them. Associate editor Barb Draper heard the stories, collected the recipes, prepared each one and photographed the final product. We thank her for that. And we thank those contributors for their tasty contributions to this community of readers.
Gathering Around the Table is ending in this issue, with the story, “Longtime cook nurtured young staff at House of Friendship” on page 25. But you can hop onto our website anytime, search for “Gathering Around the Table,” and you will find all those stories and the recipes behind them. Happy eating!
New correspondent for Saskatchewan
We’re pleased to introduce Emily Summach, who has joined the CM team as the new Saskatchewan correspondent. Emily serves as pastor of Langham Mennonite Fellowship on a part-time basis and has experience in communications in academic and arts settings.
Emily writes, “I became a part of the Mennonite Church family in 2016 when we moved to Saskatchewan. I'm continually surprised and delighted by the things I learn about Mennonite faith and culture. (I'd put the discovery of peppernut cookies high on that list.)”
Upcoming: Digital-only issue
The final issue of the year, dated Dec. 20, will come out as digital-only, with stories on the website. That issue will go only to CM’s digital subscribers, via email. (Print subscribers can add digital delivery at no extra cost. Go to canadianmennonite.org/subscribe/manage.)
The first issue in the new year will be mailed on January 10, 2022.