Saturday, December 25, 2021

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Waking up to Christmas morning

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Waking early on this cool Christmas morning, I had the living room all to myself. I looked out the window and saw our overfed, charming dog Paul sleeping on the cold tiled floor on the porch, just beside the potted cacti. On the dining table were sourdough chocolate chip cookies and unfinished layers of cakes, to be served for dessert later, for when my mother’s side of the family arrives. Manong Ralph and my cousin-chef Em have been hard at work in the kitchen since four days ago, checking the handwritten menu tacked on the fridge—meticulously crafted to impress and discover. How will our uncles and aunts—farm-folk, many of them, with orthodox, almost dogmatic notions of food—react to mango-turmeric chiffon cake, bibingka cheesecake à la Wildflour, coconut-basil and honey-lavender homemade ice cream? Hearing them ask for seconds, asking “Ano ini? Kanamit!” will be reward enough for our family cooks, sending them to bookstores and Amazon looking for recipe books.

Yesterday, after lunch, Sean and fiancée Hannah cooked pato tim over slow heat; this method involves at least six hours of boiling duck meat with a concoction of herbs and the intermittent shooing of Paul away from the charcoal fire. The meat is thus rendered so soft that it falls off the bone. Always the understated dish, it almost always emerges as the surprise centerpiece, upstaging even the lechon.

Our home smells of vanilla, cinnamon, fresh bread, ham, and warm rice, admixed with the earthy, organic stench of Paul’s excrement in the garden and the strong wafts of antiseptic that my mother uses to clean all the surfaces she could reach. Later this morning, our cleaning lady Neneng will arrive to help with the party preparations. Her tasks have nothing to do with food but with cleaning—rearranging the books, filing the cluttered paper lying everywhere, scrubbing the floors, and disinfecting the bathrooms.

As Sean so often reminds me, I am utterly useless in the kitchen. My saving grace is driving. To keep me from disrupting their tasks, my family asks me to drive to the store or mall or market to buy, say, bottles of wine. I might also pick up cousin Hannah from the airport; she is arriving from Manila without the need for quarantine.

Before the day’s festivities began, I meditated on Isaiah 9:6–7, and read the poetry and prayer from The Advent Project of Biola University Center for Christianity, Culture & Arts.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Christmas displays the exceeding wisdom of a loving and just God to wretched sinners like me. Why would the God of heaven humiliate himself by being one of us? Yet, Jesus did so, choosing to be born on a manger, dying on the cross, forever interceding for us. The truth is outstanding and glorious.

Have you listened to the song, “Mary, Did You Know?” My favorite is the line, "Has come to make you new," for Jesus has made all things new. The old has gone, the new has come—Mary knew this in her heart and acknowledged her need for a Savior. The good news is that Jesus breathes new life into us when we renounce our self-righteousness, having faith only in Him and nothing else.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you



I treated myself to my Everyman’s Library edition of Alice Munro’s Carried Away: A Personal Selection of Stories. The book arrived by mail yesterday. I did not expect a concise explanation of Christian theology in this book, but Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, reflecting on Munro’s writing, wrote, as an aside, a summary of the theology of incarnation.
The central exclusive Christian tenet is that two disparate and mutually exclusive elements—divinity and humanity—got jammed together in Christ, neither annihiliating the other. The result was not a demi-god, or a God in disguise: God became totally a human being while remaining at the same time totally divine.
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I am not sure of Atwood’s religious convictions, but she is pretty spot on. 

God became man to save us from our sins. May Jesus Christ be front and center of our celebrations. Merry Christmas, dear friends!

3 comments:

  1. Blessed to receive these food in the table. Thanks dear lance for sharing.Received my portion.

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  2. Atwood is agnostic daw.
    So curious about the mascarpone-making and the resulting tiramisu. Marcarpone so pricey in supermarkets but iirc it's fairly easy to make if you have cream.

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  3. BTW, thanks for the CCCA Biola link! I wish I'd started this in November.

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