Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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The way God does things

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas Eve, 2022


Christmas and Easter sometimes remind me of the Bobbsey twins. They’re inextricably bound together, Can’t get along without each other. And yet they’re constantly competing with each other. 

           Briefly put, the Incarnation argues that God – whoever or whatever God is – became a human being in Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem. The Resurrection claims that that same baby, some 30 years later, triumphed over death and will never die again. 

            Both focus on the uniqueness of the event. This only happened once, we declare. The rule –we commonly assume – is that God is “out there” somewhere. Or perhaps “up there”. But certainly different from us. Not mortal flesh-and-blood. 

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Jewish song writers who invented modern Christmas

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday November 27, 2022 


Years ago, I thought I was giving the Sunday School kids a treat – no dull boring lesson today; we’d just sing some familiar Christmas carols. 

            We tried. One of the mothers bravely played the piano. A teenager hoping to emulate Eric Clapton played a 12=string guitar. The singing, however, was less than enthusiastic: 

            “Okay,” I said, “you’re not keen on our choices. What would you like to sing?”

            Bigmouth at the back called out, “Rudolph!”

            Without waiting for either piano or guitar, the whole group of kids launched into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

            They sang lustily. With enthusiasm. They knew all the words. They also knew all the words to Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. And to Silver Bells.

            I didn’t have the heart to tell them that those had all been written by Jews. 

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Christmas -- how God does things

Author: Jim Taylor


Thursday December 23, 2021


What I like most about Christmas, I think, is that it forces me to sharpen my beliefs.

            I call myself a Christian (though I’m sure some would consider me a humanist at best, an atheist at worst). Certainly, I come from a Christian tradition. And Christian tradition has asserted, for centuries, that God was born as a human baby. We call him Jesus. Other cultures call him Jesu, or Yeshua, or some name that I don’t know. 

            Think about the sheer audacity of that claim. God became human! God didn’t just pretend to become human. God didn’t put on a human mask and go around in disguise. God became a human. A very specific historical human.

            The Incarnation makes my faith much simpler. If I want to know what God is like, I need only look at Jesus. 

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When Christmas is a difficult time

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday December 19, 2021


I had trouble doing my Christmas decorating this year. 

            Last year, I found the bins of Christmas decorations Joan had put away in our basement the Christmas before.  I set them up as I remembered what she had done.

           This year, though, I couldn’t remember all the details anymore.

            This Christmas, I realize, I’m not decorating for her. I can now only decorate for me.

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Christmas all year long

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve been taking my time putting Christmas decorations away.

            Long ago, everything came down on Twelfth Night, January 6 -- when, tradition says, the Magi from the east visited Jesus and brought gifts of gold, and myrrh, and incense. 

            We put them all away. Somewhere. That wasn’t part of my job. 

            My job was to take the tree and any evergreen wreathes outside. To burn them in the yard. A single match usually sufficed to demonstrate the combustibility of coniferous forests. 

            This year has been different. 

            Some of my Christmas decorations have come down, and been tucked away in boxes in the basement storage room. But some are still out. 

            Because I think, I don’t want Christmas to end. 

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Where all are welcome

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas will be different this year, for most of us. No travel, no family gatherings. I don’t expect to have anybody at all in my house over the holiday period. 

            But I’ve put up some Christmas decorations anyway. Then I got to the creche, the traditional manger scene. Ours is eclectic, to say the least.

            The core of the creche, of course, is the Holy Family – Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. We bought those three figures long ago from the wood carvers in Oberammergau, the village in the Bavarian alps that puts on a world-famed Passion Play every ten years. 

            The three camels came from a shop in Jerusalem. We were assured they were carved of olive wood from the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane under which Jesus prayed the night of his arrest and trial. 

            But we didn’t have any Magi to ride in from the East on those camels. So I carved a set of three visitors myself. As a solid mass, blending into each other – as they do in the biblical text, too.

            There are some carved wooden sheep – they’re traditional. Also a donkey made by one of our grandchildren out of a toilet paper roll wrapped with string. 

            Plus a variety of less conventional animals. A hippo, from Africa. A cow, or maybe a water buffalo, from India. An elephant from Thailand. A giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. A ceramic penguin from Chile (I think). And an Irish Setter, in loving memory of our first dog.

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Even when there’s no one there

Author: Jim Taylor

I changed the décor in our church the other day. I took down the Thanksgiving theme, and put up an Advent/Christmas theme. 

            It was a wasted effort, I suppose, because no one will see it. Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has ruled that indoor in-person events such as worship services must be cancelled to control the spread of Covid-19. 

            I’m not sure on what basis she – and the government – determine that selling cosmetics and houseplants is an essential service, and worship is not. 


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When Christmas isn’t over yet

Author: Jim Taylor

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all over the floor

lay the littered remains of the day just before…

            That’s a cynical view of Christmas. No presents left under the tree, just bags of tattered Christmas wrapping to go into recycling. The carcass of leftover turkey lurks in the refrigerator. The music channel has put Christmas albums away for another year and gone back to golden oldies.

            There’s not much left of Christmas.

            Or is there?

            I rather like the idea that the walls of an opera house might somehow still resonate to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s soaring soprano. That a sports stadium might remember Roger Banister’s Miracle Mile. That a street in Jerusalem might remember Jesus’ sandaled feet.

            Because that means something isn’t over, just because it’s over.

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Post-Christmas work begins

Post-Christmas work begins

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas is over. Crumpled gift wrap has gone into recycle bins. Santa has settled down for a long winter’s nap, or at least into an easy chair by the hearth, sipping a well-deserved eggnog; Rudolph has been put out to pasture.

            And 2018 stands on our doorsteps, finger poised at the doorbell.

            What now?

            Hymnwriter Jim Strathdee answered that question:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and the shepherds have found their way home,

The work of Christmas is begun!

            The work of Christmas? Work? Surely you jest! Christmas is about fun, and family, and feasting -- not about work.

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Honouring the tree of life

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas is just three weeks away. Silver bells ring on city sidewalks, sleighbells jingle in lanes. Coloured lights brighten the long dark nights.

            And indoors, Christmas trees light up.

            Our family used to go out and cut a tree. About 11 years ago, for various reasons, we switched to an artificial tree.

            I figure 11 trees are still alive today, that wouldn't be otherwise.

            “So what?” you scoff. Pines and firs on a Christmas tree farm were never intended to grow to maturity. They were grown to be cut down, weren't they?

            Maybe. But like us, they're living things. The ancient Druids had sacred groves. I suggest that every tree should be considered sacred.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: trees, Christmas

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