Saturday, 26 December 2015

Feelings Versus Facts At Christmas

Yesterday I had the honour of leading the Christmas Day service for our congregation. I talked briefly about "the feelings of Christmas" vs "the facts of Christmas".

Growing up in New Zealand, Christmas was (and is) an wonderful mix of traditions --- fake snow under the summer sun, Santa suits by the beach, hearty puddings under blossoming pohutukawa trees, family gatherings, gifts, carols, swimming and sunscreen. These traditions produce a palpable feeling of Christmas. In my youth I devalued such feelings, on the grounds that Mr Spock was right and emotion should never displace reason as the sole regulator of one's mental state. (Yes, I was a twerp.)

Later I became a Christian, and my perspective changed. I found that emotions have their proper place --- as a response to truth, not a determiner of it. If Jesus lives, joy and awe are the proper response. More importantly, Christmas is not just tradition and feelings: it has facts behind it, world-changing facts that make Christmas Christmas no matter how we feel about it. God himself became present in the world, in a child, to reestablish a relationship between us and himself. Christmas carols produce Christmassy feelings, but they also recite facts. We can sing them and mean them, and the meaning justifies the feelings.

This is especially relevant during hard times. Suffering doesn't cease during Christmas, and Christmas feelings may be absent, but the facts of Christmas persist no matter what. Thank God for that.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Abel Tasman Track

A week ago I spent four days walking the Abel Tasman track with some friends and family. As always we had a very good time tramping, staying in huts, and enjoying the outdoors. The weather was excellent. The track winds along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park, mostly granite promontories separted by beautiful beaches of coarse golden sand, with thick bush running up into the hills and a few estuaries to cross. This area is busier than other tramping tracks because there are many campsites and most of it is easily accessible by kayak and water taxis --- and by road in a few places. However, in the late afternoons and evenings there's no-one around except for the trampers. Three of the four days were four hours of walking or less, so we had plenty of time relaxing around the huts, often playing Bang.

Despite the relative lack of remoteness, we saw a lot of interesting wildlife on this trip ... a duck with ten ducklings, oystercatchers with chicks, seagulls, shags, herons, kereru, weka, estuary denizens such as fish, crabs and shellfish, and seals on a side trip to Separation Point.

One unexpected highlight was finding a fancy cafe at Awaroa Lodge, nestled in the bush, far from any road. We had an excellent dinner there --- eye-wateringly expensive, but no more than you'd expect for a fine meal in the middle of nowhere.

After finishing the track we stayed the night at Takaka; on Monday the children and I flew home via Wellington. Our flight to Wellington was on a tiny Piper aeroplane: six seats, including the pilot's, the whole aircraft about the size of a large car with wings attached. I got to sit in the front next to the pilot, with duplicate controls, which I did not need reminding to stay clear of! It was a wonderful flight, since we flew low back across Abel Tasman National Park and then the Marlborough Sounds. Turbulence near Wellington was a bit scary --- I don't like rollercoasters and the little plane weaved and dipped a lot --- but not as bad as my last flight into Wellington.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

CppCast rr Podcast

This week I took part in a podcast interview with the folks of CppCast, about rr. It was a lot of fun... Check it out.