Merry Christmas


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Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of the Messiah.  God’s love coming down in the form of a baby.

This being Christmas Day, I have one last tradition to share. This is the one most fundamental of all the traditions in our family, one that never changes from year to year and follows our family groupings both smallpp-bible-5601437522_b21a5707cd_b and large. The tradition comes before exchanging presents or eating turkey or snacking on any of the delicious goodies laid out throughout the house; even before going out to play. On Christmas morning the entire family gathers together in the living room, the large family Bible that has been around for years is pulled out, and we read aloud the Christmas story from Luke 2. We talk about the account of the birth of the Saviour and then we share in a prayer of blessing over each member of the family. It is a special time for everyone.  Perhaps this is a tradition in your family as well. If not, perhaps it can become a new one.

I invite you to join with me as we take a walk through Luke 2:1-20.


Thank you for journeying with me these past weeks. May you be Blessed.

Merry Christmas!!!

For unto you is born this day

a Saviour who is Christ the Lord

Lk 2.11


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Light . . . the flickering light of a candle . . . reminiscent of calm, peaceful nights. Quiet and still, candle light evokes the feelings and security and warmth and for as long as there has been Christmas, there has been candle light.

The use of candles predates Christmas as we know it. The festivals of Saturnalia, the Persian Yule and Winter Solstice all used candles, and specifically tapers, to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. As Christianity spread candles came to be associated with Christmas as well. When celebrating Christmas, candles symbolize the Star that appeared at the birth of the Christ-child and which came to rest over Bethlehem. Tall candles attached to the tops of trees and set in important places in a home represented the star. Candles also represented Christ himself and often tall candles in red or white representing Christ were put into the centre of a laurel wreaths. These candles would burn all night on Christmas Eve to welcome His birth and the rebirth of light.


As the years past, candles also became associated with the journey that Joseph and Mary took as they traveled to Bethlehem to be included in the census. Candles were very likely used to light their way then and today in some homes candles are still placed in window sills to “light the way” on Christmas Eve.


The Advent wreath also used candles to signify Christ and the Sundays counting down to Christmas. One of three purple candles were lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas excepting the third Sunday on which day a pink candle was lit instead. The purple signified penance of the church and pink candle signified joy. On the day of Christmas the while candle in the middle of the wreath is lit representing the purity of Christ.


Candles represent Christ as the light of the world and the light to the world. Wherever Christ is taken, His light permeates the darkness and the darkness is no more. His light shines in darkness and darkness cannot overcome it. (John 1.5) Light, in the context of the Christmas season, is meant to be shared. Those who have entered into the light now become the lights in the dark world (Php 2.15)


Let your light Shine

so all may see your Good Works

and Glorify the Father.

Mt 5.16


Taylor, Ben. Shedding Light on Tradition: The Christmas Candle. 2014-11-10 (Web)
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A Star in the night sky; visible in the east to a group of learned men; men who studied the sky looking for the sign.

Stars have been long associated with the Christmas. The story of the Star followed by the Magi as told in Matthew has been studied, debated, questioned and theorized on for centuries. Was there really a star? Could it have really lead wise men from Persia to a tiny town in Judea; to a specific house with a toddler?

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The Star, as referred to in Matthew’s gospel comes from the Greek word “aster”. Its meaning refers to any of a myriad of heavenly objects: stars, planets, comets to name a few. There are many theories surrounding the Star. Some say it was comet that appeared to the Magi and was visible for a number of weeks then disappeared and then another comet appeared once they left Jerusalem for Bethlehem. Another of the theories point to a supernova which suddenly appeared and then, as is common for supernovas, disappeared, reappearing again in the same spot later. Both of these theories line up with the story as set out in Matthew.


Many believe that the star did not literately geographically lead the Magi to Jerusalem nor to the exact house in Bethlehem, but rather was a recognizable “star” that appeared around the time the Messiah, as referred to by Daniel, (Dn 9.25-26) was prophesied to appear. The Magi were very likely highly educated leaders in Persia. They may not have been astrologers but rather national leaders or politicians who were highly respected. They would have had a vast knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and would have been well versed in the prophesies of Daniel, a wise man in the Courts of that land. The magi would have known about the Anointed One foretold by Daniel and the approximate time when he was to come; they would not have known, however, where to find him. When the unusual star appeared, they would have immediately connected the event with the arrival of a new King (apparently it was a common to have a star appear at the time of the birth of a new king). Based on the prophesies they would have gone directly to Jerusalem, the capital city of Daniel’s homeland, fully assuming the leaders in Israel to also be watching expectantly for the Messiah. Clearly they had not.

When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem they found no one talking about the Star nor the new Messiah. When the priests and learned men in Jerusalem read back through the Scriptures they advise that the Messiah was said to be born in Bethlehem of Judea and the Magi head off in that direction. At this time, the star reappears to them and they find the babe, who is now said to be around 15 to 18 months old. Whether this second appearing of the star was the same comet, an aligning of planets, a supernova, or a miraculous revelation of shekinah – the physical manifestation of the glory of God, the wise men see it and follow it to the home where the Christ-child resides.


We will likely never know exactly what happened over the course of their travel and what they actually did see in sky, however, we do know that these Magi – learned men, were expectantly waiting and watching. They were anticipating the arrival of the Messiah and when they saw the Star they immediately sought to find the new King and pay him reverence and worship Him.

We have seen His Star in the east

and have come to Worship

Matt 2.2



Petro, Bill. History of The Christmas Star. 2015-12-08 (Web)Ross, Dr. Hugh. The Christmas Star. Reasons to Believe. 2002-12-01 (Web)
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Say the word Angels and what comes to mind? White, ethereal, floating beings; cute child-like curly haired cherub with wings; beautiful and intricately detailed carvings; strong, mighty warriors?

The word Angel is derived from the Greek (and Hebrew) words which mean messenger. Angels, it appears, have always been associated with Christmas, however, there does not appear to be any specific date or attribution of where or when the first Angel Tree Topper or ornaments were used. We do know that the Europeans decorated their first Christmas Trees with cookies, and then later crafts and then glass ornaments, made into the shapes of Angels. Carvings have been found dating back to around 2000 BC showing depictions of Angels. So clearly the concept of Angels has been around for quite some time.


The best reference to Angels is found in the Bible. In the Christmas story, Angels are mentioned on three separate occasions. The first being a visit to Mary, a young girl ready to be married. Who was Mary and why was she so special? Mary was in the line of Adam through David; she was of Levitical decent placing her in the bloodline of David and that of the Priestly linage. In other words, she was both in the line of great kings and the line of priests; those whose job it was to minister to the Most High God. To this young girl, the angel Gabriel appeared with a greeting and a very peculiar message. “Do not be afraid; you are highly favoured of God [God’s grace is upon you].” Such strong words for a girl of presumed lowly status. Gabriel brought Mary the message of the birth of a son, her son, who would be called the Son of God and would be great and eminent. He told of how the Holy Spirit would come upon her; wow, that must have been amazing for her, in those days no one had the Holy Spirit come upon them, but for perhaps a priest, or a very important person of the day; and how she would carry a Son conceived by no man. (Lk 1.30-35)

The second reference to Angels comes shortly after where an angelic messenger comes with a message for Mary’s betrothed husband, Joseph. The messenger encourages Joseph to take Mary as his wife; for she will bear a Son that will be a Messiah to their people. (Mt 1.20)


Angels appear for a third time with triumphant exuberance and they proclaim the message of great joy announcing to the world, and specifically to sheep farmers, the birth of the Saviour, the Christ. There is a mass of angels this time praising God and singing Glory to God. (Lk 2.8-14)

From the beginning until the very end of the Story, Angels were involved. Their messages brought peace, assurance and announced the events that were taking place. From these stories we derive the significance of Angels and why they became mainstays as ornaments and tree decorations and toppers during the Christmas Season.


I can imagine the excitement of the Angels who announced the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds. They were likely quivering with excitement over the event! A Saviour; to redeem mankind; and they had the ultimate privilege of telling those men on the hillside! What fun!  In turn, the men, those Shepherds likely did not know what to think about the announcement. When they went and found the babe, the Christ-child, and began to put the pieces together, they themselves, like the Angels, became messengers telling everyone in their path, their friends, their family members, their neighbors, and likely even strangers about the new Hope.

We too can be messengers.



When they had seen Him,

They told everyone they knew about the Child.

And everyone who heard was astonished and in awe.

Lk 2.17-18


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Charity – Giving to the poor and needy.

Donations world-wide increase by nearly one-third between November and December every year. It appears that the Christmas season, the season of giving, really does have an effect on us. It is where we open up our hearts and pocket books to share of our abundance with those who have less. Of interest, giving is not a pursuit solely of the wealthy and successful, but is also engaged in by those less fortunate. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone who himself is struggling, to offer charity to someone who is even less fortunate than himself.

Giving of money, food or clothing, is a means by which people help to pp-give-2-4001221960_f90ab3cd44_s.jpgmeet the needs of those around them. Of course, gifts of food and clothing are usually done at a local level while other forms of giving, including financial giving, is done for those who are father away from the local area.

The concept of giving has been around for millennia and is mentioned by nearly every well-known religion in the world. It is said that giving is done out of a heart of gratitude.  Thankfulness for what we have been given produces the attitude of gratitude which seeks action in giving.  In order for giving to achieve its full effect the donor must possess an attitude of gratefulness and cheerfulness in what he is giving.  If giving is done with drudgery and pressure then the gift has neither been given fully nor freely.

Christmas is a great time to think about helping those around you in need.  Whether it is volunteering to serve at the local soup kitchen, an anonymous gift of cash to a relief organization or preparing a food and gift hamper for a family in need, it  all equates to giving.  Small gifts are every bit as important as larger ones.  Little actions when done consistently and by many have huge impact on the world around us.


Here are some super fun ways to donate.

  • Host a Christmas party and encourage your guests to bring a non-perishable food item instead of a hostess gift; then gather all the donations and take them down to your local food bank;
  • Gather a group of friends and family and head out shovel snow or do yard maintenance for some elderly people that would have difficulty doing it themselves;
  • Spend a day or two building at house with Habitat for Humanity, not only will you get to spend a day with some super fun people, but you will also see a tangible result right away for your effort;
  • Instead of buying pajamas for under the tree this year, how about taking those new pajamas and donating them to children in a local shelter;
  • Head down to the local soup kitchen and spend the afternoon with some friends feeding those in need;
  • Give Christmas to a family who would not otherwise have one by adopting a family through a local agency and then going out and buying them everything they would need to have a Christmas celebration from food and day-to-day necessities to gifts for each family member under the tree.

Regardless of how we choose to give, from service to cash, we know that as we have been blessed we bless.

There will be no one in need among you;

you are greatly blessed

in the land given to you as an inheritance.

Deut 15.4



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As far as Christmas flowers go, this one is likely the most well known. Look around your house this Christmas and if you have decorated at all, it is quite likely you will have some representation of poinsettia, whether it be a live poinsettia plant, a picture printed on a dinner napkin, or something in between. The bright red leaves seemingly have endeared themselves to our Christmas celebration.

The poinsettia itself been around for quite some time. Its natural habitat is in the southern part of Mexico where an individual plant can grow to upwards of 12 feet tall. The plant is part of the Euphorbiaceae family and is called Euphorbia pulcherrima. It is also called Cuitlaxochitl in the language of the Aztecs. The name poinsettia is an American name associated with the man who introduced the plant to North America in 1828. The poinsettia blooms in or near December annually and therefore makes it an excellent flower for the Christmas season. On average poinsettias generate over $250 million in sales each season in America alone.


The poinsettia was introduced to America by US Ambassador Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. Mr. Poinsett was an avid botanist and when he came across the beautiful poinsettia while stationed in Mexico, he had cuttings sent back to his estate in South Carolina. From there he gave plants as gifts to his friends. One such friend owned a greenhouse and began distributing the flower at Christmas. It took some time for the “new” flower to catch on, however, by the early 1900s the poinsettia was well established as a staple during the Christmas season.

With over 100 varieties and colours available, there literately is a poinsettia for everyone.

The legend behind the poinsettia is that of a young child in Mexico on Christmas Eve. The child is usually presented as a little girl either by the name of Pepita or Maria. The legend tells of how the villagers gathered every Christmas Eve at the church. Everyone brought gifts to present to the Christ child. This year, however, the little girl did not have a gift to lay at the manger. She was very upset and refused to go to the church without a gift. In desperation she gathered some weeds from along the roadside and took them to lay at the manger. As it happens, when she laid her gift at the alter a miracle happened and the weeds turned a beautiful red and lit up the manger. Everyone was astonished and from there we have the Flores de Noche Buena (“Flowers of the Holy Night”).

Young or old, we too can each lay a gift at the manger in honour of the Christ Child. As the legend states, the gift matters least; it matters more that it was Given.

“for He came not to be served, but to serve.”

Mk 10.45




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When is the last time you headed out to the slopes (or the closest man-made hill) with your family for an afternoon of tobogganing?  Tobogganing is one of the oldest forms of transportation and so it stands to reason that along the journey it also became a source of fun, especially among children.  I remember often heading out to the “local hill” as a child with a toboggan and spending hours sliding down and then dragging the (seemingly ever increasingly heavy) toboggan back up the hill again and again.

The history of the toboggan dates back to nearly 3000 BC where pp-tob3-315849211794_95a535a46b_sthe Sumerian pictography shows sleds or toboggans being used to transport materials from one location to another. It appears quite possible that sleds were used in 2000 BC in Egypt to transport stones to build the pyramids.  These sleds were constructed of curved runners of wood or bone and carved wood or stretched leather seats.

The toboggan that we are familiar with today and use as a fun pastime, originated with the early subarctic Aboriginals in Canada and USA.  The sled was constructed of poles tied together by leather straps and its initial use was to haul goods and people across the deep snow.  The sleds or toboggans became to be made of boards of hickory, birch or oak held together with crossbars.  The front of the toboggan was curved up at the front to create less resistance in the snow.  Typically these toboggans were seven to 10 feet long and quite narrow at only one foot wide.  They were most often pulled by a person wearing a harness or, if you were privileged enough, a team of sled of dogs.

It is thought that the popularity of toboggans as a sport and leisurely pastime originated in Mont Royal, Montreal, Canada in the 1880s where the Montreal Tobogganing Club was founded and began sponsoring tobogganing competitions. From there the sport spread across North America and soon meets and competitions were being held on snow packed hills across North America.  From these origins the Olympic sports of bobsledding, luging and skeleton grew.  As the 1930s drew to a close, the popularity of tobogganing waned in favour of the more enticing downhill skiing which was gaining traction across the North America.


In time the traditional toboggan constructed of birch or oak was modified to include metals and plastics.  Modern inventions such as Crazy Carpets, Spinning Discs and GTs have nearly replaced the heavy and cumbersome toboggan on sledding hills.  There is still nothing quite like sliding down a hill with two, three, four or even five people sitting on a toboggan in wild abandon!

Being a country with little snow, I am pretty confident that Mary and Joseph would not have thought to use a toboggan for their journey to Bethlehem and likely opted for the more conventional donkey, if anything, as transportation.  Perhaps their journey from one location to another was foretelling of the travelling done today when families join together to celebrate the season.

Whether you are traveling this season or staying close to home take a moment to reflect upon the One who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness . . to guide their feet to the way of peace.” (Lk 1.79)




History of Toboggans, CDNIcons ( (2015 12 19)(Web)
“tobogganing”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2015
History of Tobagganing.  Gaser ( 2015 12 19 )(Web)
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And they presented gifts to Him, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

(Lk 2. 11)

The tradition of giving gifts dates back beyond this Bethlehem scene. Gift giving likely began during the winter festival Saturnalia where certain citizens were compelled to bring gifts to offer to their leaders. This tradition eventually morphed into common citizens exchanging gifts amongst themselves.

The Christian church in time, likely around the 4th century, adopted the pp-presents1-6620071689_ab0c365be2_bcelebration of the winter festival and heavily influenced its practices to bring the traditions around to Christian meanings. One of these influences meant the exchanging of gifts now being rerooted into the tradition of the Magi bringing gifts to the Christ child. The exchange of gifts today is done in remembrance of the gifts that the Magi brought.

It was customary at the time, and remains so to this day, that when visiting royalty, one brings gifts to give him or her. For example when our leaders visit the Queen they always bring gifts as an act of honour and respect. So too in days past; and this was the custom that the Magi were following when they gathered their expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. When they came in to the presence of the Christ child and presented gifts, they were acknowledging Him to be royalty and treated Him as such.

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Our exchange of gifts today reflect back to this tradition and allows us the opportunity to act in remembrance of the royalty born so long ago and also to honour those around us with whom we live and work. Gifts serve as a reminder of the greatest gift that was ever given; that of an only son to a world in need of a redeemer.

As we go about gathering gifts to present to our friends, family and acquaintances, you are invited to do so in the spirit of respect and honour, remembering that what we do to our fellow man, we do the one to created it all.


Thanks be to God for his indescribable Gift.

Every good and perfect Gift comes

from the One who Sustains us

Who is Complete and Steadfast.

2 Cor 9.15; James 1.17




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In my home, Christmastime means digging out the family board games and playing for hours and hours; everything from aggravation to Monopoly and dozens in between. As it turns out, playing games and specifically board games, has been done since ancient civilization. Even more than that, some of the games we play today are based on and still use similar pieces to what was used thousands of years ago. When I think of playing “old” games I think of Monopoly or Chess. As it turns out while Chess may have its roots in the ancients, Monopoly is, comparatively speaking, a baby by gaming standards. Who knew we would be playing games today that were invented before written languages and nearly at the beginning of civilization.


Senet (or S’n’t) was a game known to be played by the ancient Egyptians around 3000 BC. Senet was found in many tombs in Egypt.  As well there are well preserved hieroglyphs representing the Senet game dating back to 3100 BC which would evidence that the game had been in play well before that time. It was a highly valued game as indicated by the inclusion in burial tombs and as reference in Egyptian literature. Senet is thought to be a predecessor of Backgammon. Although Backgammon‘s origins date it to around 2000 BC. It was called Ludus at the time and its history starts during the time of the Roman Empire, although there are records of the game in India as well at this same time.

One of the oldest games known to date is called “The Royal Game of Ur”. It was found in a Tomb in Iran and dates from 2500 BC. The name originates from the ancient city in which it was found, Ur. The ruins of the city of Ur could very well be the same place that Abraham of the Bible lived about 400 years later. This game again was found in the tombs of the ancients. A recent discovery of a nearly identical game board in use in modern India makes this game one of longest, if not the longest, played game in history.


Another of the ancient games we still play is called Go or Wei-qi. Its roots can be traced back to China as far back as 2300 BC. From there it went to Korea and then on to Japan by 700 AD. Interestingly enough the rules of the game have changed very little since that time.


Mancala is another game from history, but not quite as old as the rest as it likely originated around 700 AD. It is believed that this game was likely played by digging shallow holes into dirt to create two rows of holes each holding either seeds or beans which was used the play the game. Mancala appears in ancient artifacts of the Egyptians and at nearly the same time it also appears in Kenya. We continue to play Mancala to this day, however, we usually play it indoors on a board or online.


pp-games-chess5706994938_6fec7d41bd_bChess appears on the scene around 400 BC in China and from there it spread to India and Central Asia and from there to Africa. It took over a century for Chess to migrate from North Africa to Europe, however by the middle ages it was well established in Europe and around 1500 Chess was brought to North America.

Ever heard of a game called The Landlord’s Game? It was created in 1903 by American, Lizzi Magie. Lizzi wanted the game to show the effects of pp-games-monopoly-3168012226_b740f3e49bland grabbing and the consequences of landlords owning land and acquiring more and more land and tenants paying rents and becoming less and less able to afford the rents. The game was based on the Georgism economic principles and sought to demonstrate to people how this economic system worked. The game was later sold to Parker Brothers in 1935 and it was repackaged and sold to great success as Monopoly.



Another more modern game, Catan, was invented in the 1980s by a dental technician in Germany. He created the game in his basement in his spare time. The game came to North America in 1995 and has been selling millions of copies ever since.



While games themselves are not representative of the Christmas season, they are for some a tradition which unites family and friends together in a time of cheerful competition and fun. In a season of reflection and meditation, moments of joy and laughter are also appropriate. You will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at His birth (Lk 1.14). Laughter is so important to brighten our days and lift our souls. Our laughter mixes with the praises of heaven and just as a father delights in hearing his children laugh and sing so does the One above rejoice as we surrender our cares and trust enough to enjoy the life we have been given and His presence surrounding us.


RELAX, know that I am with you.

A HAPPY HEART is good medicine;


A JOYFUL MIND causes healing.

Ps 46.10; Matt 1.23; Prov 17.22


Astral Castle: A History of Board Games. ( df14de88ea2a8a6f6bf66) (2015 12 16)(Web)
History of Board Games. ( (2015 12 16)(Web)
The Full History of Board Games. ( (2015 12 16)(Web)
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The Christmas Cookie


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Or rather the Christmas cookies and bars and squares and tarts and even more cookies . . . If your house is anything like mine at Christmastime it is filled with all sorts of delectable treats with cookies being predominate among them. So why cookies? Is this an ancient tradition or something more recent? And where did they come from anyway?

It is apparent that cookies, or test cakes as they were, date as far back as the 7th century. Cookies were used literally as a small cake to test an oven’s temperature. Interestingly historians believe they originated in or around what is now Iran and spread from there.  Overtime cookies became important in the celebration of special events and were often used throughout many ancient festivals. There were predominately used during the Solstice Festival which took place near the end of December and which has now been replaced with our modern Christmas.

Interestingly the cookies made in the middle ages resemble closely the pp-pinewheels-3052965860_d0d28ee37f_bcookies we still make today. They used spices such as nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and were often sweetened with molasses or honey. In addition, apricots and dates and other available dried fruits were added to the batter. Some families would have used sugar and butter in place of the molasses, however, those ingredients were still quite expensive and therefore only on very special occasions would treats with sugar have been used.

In addition to the creativity and portability of the cookies, or perhaps because of it, cookies were perfect to share with friends and acquaintances. It was not uncommon, even in the middle ages, for friends pp-cookies-rack-5436002010_1521abe746_bto exchange cookies as gifts. Cookies were also very good food for traveling and as more people began to travel at this time, cookies became a staple. Possibly because of this travel Cookies were brought to Europe and by the 1500s were a part of their food tradition. We have cookies such as Spritz and Gingerbread (called Lebkuchen from the Germans), Papparkako from Sweden and Krumkake from the Norwegians. A little later on, the Sugar Cookie was created from English traditions. To facilitate creativity and expand upon the standard square or round cookie, the Dutch and Germans began bending metals to use as cutters and cookies started to take on unique shapes.  The cutters turned the cookies into bells, trees, flowers, stars and angels; some done elaborately and others done more simply.  Here are some recipes for cookies made back in the 1700 and 1800s.


As cookies came to North America, techniques changed again and by the 1940s refrigerator or overnight cookies became popular as all one had to do was to pat the dough into a roll, chill it overnight and then slice and bake the cookies the next day.  Decorated cookies were around from the start, however, the more common use and availability of sugar freed people to experiment with different techniques and food items.  Here are some cookies made to look like stained glass.

There is more, however, to the Christmas cookie than just taste, texture and shape. There is all important tradition of actually making the cookies.  In many families there are recipes that have been past down from one generation to the next and are included at Christmas every year. Some people can recall baking cookies with their moms and grandmas growing up and then having their own children and sharing that same experience with them. Often groups of people, family or not, will gather together for a few hours to bake and decorate cookies for the holiday season. This becomes a time pp-cookies-family-15941963450_e4ff283f5a_bof sharing and camaraderie and strengthening relationships and often can be quite fun! As we approach the Christmas season make some time to share with those around you, whether through something as simple as the gift of a small tin of cookies or getting together to spend time in the kitchen creating fond memories and maybe some flavourful cookies as well.

We have sweet fellowship together.

Encouraging each other to love and good works.

Ps 55.14, I Thess 5.11, Heb 10.24




Christmas Cookies, Food Time Line. ( (2015 12 15)(Web)
History of Cookies – Cookie History. What’s Cooking America ( (2015 12 15)(Web)
Butler, Stephanie. The Medieval History of the Christmas Cookie, ( (2015 12 15)(Web)
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