Rev Sarah Agnew.
Esteban Lievano (right) with his family.
Esteban Lievano What does the term "joy" mean to you? Especially at Christmas time, joy means the sense of happiness from being a part of a loving family, as well as the wider Christian family in the church. Joy is also something that is shared – Christmas is a time when we’re reminded that God loved us so much that he sent his son, and that knowledge of the love of the Father brings joy. I have the immense pleasure in sharing that with my children as well my brothers and sisters in the church. How do you experience joy during the Christmas season? I rejoice in being able to take time to share with my kids another element of my culture in sharing the Christmas traditions. We have a traditional meal of Argentinean asado, with ensalada rusa and empanadas – all of which we have laboured together to produce.
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In the living room we have a traditional Christmas tree with all the trimmings, but next to it is our pesebre or nativity scene celebrating that Latin American tradition of putting the baby Jesus at the centre of the festivities, and we open the presents on the 24th at midnight – waking up for Christmas Service is sometimes difficult! The evening usually ends with breaking a piñata outside, a custom we’ve picked up from our Hispanic community here in Australia, and the kids are allowed one piece of candy before we tuck them into their beds. On Christmas morning, we join in with our wider church family and my wife’s Australian family in celebrating Aussie traditions – so we get the best of both worlds! This mixture of custom, tradition and faith - and the privilege of sharing this with my family – is one of the aspects of the season that brings me great joy.
Rev Sarah Agnew Jacarandas burst, lining the streets with Advent joy. Days linger into the evening as the seasons themselves sing joyful songs of life. That was last Christmas, and every Christmas before it. This year, I am accompanied by empty trees and long nights as the carol books and decorations are dusted off again. This year, I will sing, but will not play, the carols of Christmas joy. Our midnight contemplative service of the past three years, at which my clarinet accompanied the carol singing, was a special Christmas joy. This year, for the first Christmas in over a decade, I will hear the story told without telling it. Will I find joy in a return to listener, even as I feel the absence of collaboration in telling the story anew in a community of faith? For the first time in my life, I will not eat and drink Christmas with my family, my deepest Christmas joy. As I write these lines, I do not know where or with whom I will eat and drink this Christmas; and in my gifted, chosen “homelessness” my thoughts turn to all those who yearn for home, whatever “home” may be. This Christmas, the language and imagery of light in the darkness take on new meaning as I celebrate Christmas in the darker, colder north. But though I am told not to get my hopes up, this relocation may bring a new joy I could not experience at home – a white Christmas! There is joy even in the possibility of snow!