In a moment of peace, I was hovering in the kitchen listening to Christmas music while the wife made pumpkin pie from scratch.

I can take a picture (and in fact I did), but a larger part of the appeal of pumpkin pie is the fragrance of pumpkin, cinnamon and ground ginger all mixed in together.

The sound of Christmas music, the smell of pumpkin pie being made…for a moment, it almost felt like Christmas was on the way.

All that was missing were loved ones who have gone on, and snow. The moment was therefore transitory, as brief as a snow cone under the unparalleled African sun.

The author, Habakkuk itemises a list of things that have gone wrong:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,”

I look at that list and I think: debt. Most of us don’t have a reserve of resources, or a plan B. If those things don’t work out, if the fig tree doesn’t bud, if the olive crop fails, we’re in a hole for some green. Habakkuk writes that ‘though’ all these things are facts, yet he will rejoice in the Lord his saviour.

Christmas approaches and the infamous reply of Hillary R. Clinton before the House Select Committee on Benghazi comes to mind:

“What difference at this point does it [Christmas] make?”

She wasn’t referring to Christmas of course. But the way she asked her rhetorical question, it could just as well be about Christmas.

In the light of my thinking ‘what is the point of doing Christmas?’, I was thinking about the Aaronic priestly blessing, a benediction I think is awesome:

The mythical Santa has his list of naughty and nice, but Christmas really evokes itemization for me: businesses in the red or in the black, items on sale. Presents or no presents? Who brings the chicken? Who brings the gammon? At whose house do we gather? In a year like this, what level of lockdown are they going to impose on us?

The Lord gives, and as Job reminds us, he also takes away.

I read the benediction in the light of the things God gives to his children and then takes away, like loved ones, or time spent, or any list of things that we have lost in the last year.

He has given so many things and taken many things away. But He has never removed Himself.

The LORD gives himself to his people. His blessing, and his power to keep us (we can’t sabotage ourselves out of his hands), His face looking on us, seeing us really, His grace, his countenance (seeing us not as we are in our sin, but in Christ), and his peace.

His peace, oh how we need his peace in the midst of a Christmas that has lost a lot of its shine.

He has given so many things and taken many things away. But He has never removed Himself.

Numbers Chapter 6

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