Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's Over

Christmas is over!

The daughter and the boyfriend returned to the UK so the really-smart, looks twenty-five younger than she is wife and I have the flat to ourselves again.

However, to celibrate this my wife made me two appointments yesterday. I went to the dentist in the morning and to get my prostate medicine renewed in the afternooon. I cannot imagine a worse day than a dentist in the morning and a prostate exame in the afternoon.

Until next time
Fai Mao
The blogger who is finishing up his holidays

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Vine that Strangled Christmas

This is a really unusual post for me. First it is being composed in the evening on a weekend. Second I normally avoid speaking of groups, people or organization by name unless they are politicians. Third, when I write about religion I try to write about personal themes. Tonight I am writing about an identifiable group.

The really smart, pretty, looks twenty-five years younger than she is wife and I have been looking for a new church for the past couple of months for a variety of reasons. For a city with a fairly large number of prominent churches this has been harder than you might think. Part of that process took us to the Christmas pageant presented by "The Vine" in the HKCEC theatre 2.

This was one church that we can scratch off our list.

I can sum up the rest of this post in three words when I say that this Christmas pageant was: offensive, sacrilegious, and blasphemous.

I walked out after about 15 minutes but the wife, our daughter and her non-Christian boyfriend stayed for the whole performance in part because my wife and daughter didn't want to climb over the seats in the last row like I did to get out.

I can honestly say that they had a very good video presentation of the church announcements. I cannot recommend anything else about their service. If this was indicative of the theology that is commonly believed in their church I really wonder about that congregation's salvation.

They had disco dancing angels, God played by an overweight woman, idiotic angels. They made fun of the way God chose Mary and Joseph. They made fun not of Christians as fallen beings but of the invisible church eternal, the nature of God and displayed a shocking lack knowledge of basic Christian doctrine. Those were just the things I saw in 15 minutes or so. My wife told me that they basically disparaged and denigrated the entire Christmas story and that after I left it got worse. I went out side the theatre and sat on a couch not knowing whether to be angry or sad over a church that would do something like this.

Blasphemy is the sin of demeaning the nature of God. This program did that at almost every opportunity tonight. That is a horrible thing to say but I can find no other words.

The non-Christian boyfriend told me that his Anglican relatives would have walked out as well. Then he made another comment that I found profound. He said: "This looked like a spoof of the Christmas story that anti-Christians would have staged to make fun of Christians." Wow! How is that for a comment from an unbeliever. He was on the other hand almost amused by the event which in this case, isn't good.

We brought him to this service as an evangelistic opportunity. I'd hoped that he would see the wonder and awe inherent in the Christmas story. What he saw was poor almost beyond belief.

Great job guys! you're doing the devil's work better than he could himself.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is still trying to celebrate Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Oh the monkies have no tails in Zam-Boanga"

I've been thinking about Christmas this week. We've got some preparations to make and some gifts to buy and the normal holiday stuff. A lot of people seem to find this a really stressful time of year but I never have. While Christmas in Hong Kong often defines the words "trite, cheap & materialistic" It is also a pleasant time in too many ways to count.

This year I have been thinking about how the holiday season has changed for me over time. Family traditions are a nebulous thing in my household. I guess that the nearest thing to a Christmas tradition we had was the concept of a Christmas trip. Whether that was going back to see my parents when we were in Austin or later family trips the Bahamas, Guam or Thailand, we've taken trips at Christmas several times. We also used to host graduate students from the mainland when we had a larger apartment. This was a really nice way to spend a holiday.

The really smart, very pretty, looks twenty-five years younger than she is, hard working and gracious wife and I will also spend several hours with a bowl of popcorn watching corny old Christmas movies. I can't stand "It's a Wonderful Life" but most of them I really enjoy. The Polar Express from a couple of years ago has moved up to the top of my personal list of Christmas movies but you are free to have your own.

I also try to read through the Christmas story in the book of Luke several times in December.

When I was a child my parents would drive us kids around to see the lights on people's houses. There was a competition in the town at that time and neighborhoods would compete for some sort of prize or trophy for best decorated neighborhood as well as individuals. This was a very simple thing for my parents to do. Just load the kids in the back of the 65 Chevy after dark and head off to where the lights were. Yet it was one of my favorite things and one of my most cherished memories. Sometimes we'd see lights that said "Happy Hanuka" and I found it pleasant to know that Jewish people could celebrate the holidays too. It made me aware of the fact that there were were people who believed different things and that is a good lesson for any child to learn. One year, a rather well known atheist in our town decorated his house for Christmas with the words "Bah-Humbug" and images of Scrooge and Tiny Tim on crutches. He didn't think that Christmas should be a holiday at all. He won the prize for the best lights display that year which may not have been his intention. I thought it was hilarious and laughed really hard when I read that he'd won in the paper. Something else that may not have been his intention was that because I didn't understand the meaning of his display, I read "A Christmas Carrol" by Charles Dickens. I have wondered at times if that man ever read the ending of that book? I can't say those lights changed my life but seeing them did improve my life.

In a similar vein my wife, who deserves the superlatives listed above, and I try to ride the Star Ferry across the harbor at this time of year to see the lights on the buildings. It is something that I always look forward to. I thought of that this week and I thought of those lights that said "Bah-Humbug" on that house so long ago. I thought of the strings of memory that tie us to what we were and shape us in unpredictable ways years later.

The existentialist in me has been wondering about these kinds of things lately. I don't know why, sometimes I just can't help myself. I asked myself, "When do silly things become a tradition and when do those traditions take on an importance beyond the actual deed?" When did driving around looking at Christmas lights on people's houses become more than entertainment for me and become a cherished memory? When did seeing the lights on Hong Kong buildings go from being something that happened almost accidentally into something intentional? When does the trivial, the small and the ordinary become special? When and how do we raise those special thing to an almost religious status? I don't know if I can answer those questions. If I could I don't think I would want to. I'm not going to try. Sometimes knowing the answer ruins everything. Sometimes I just have to sit back and marvel at how wonderful it is to be able to develop family traditions at all.

It occurs to me that family traditions like this are a very odd thing. They are personal yet occur in a group. The best ones also seem to just happen. They aren't forced or intentional but become intentional through the pleasure they give us. I can see this in one of the Christmas movies I watch which isn't really a Christmas movie at all as far as I know. It's Donovan's Reef, staring John Wayne, Lee Marvin and (I think) Maureen O'Hara. It is set on a Pacific Island just after World War II. It is a fairly typical romantic comedy of the 1950's, a "B" movie all the way but a fun one. It does have a Christmas scene, and that makes it a Christmas movie to me, that I laughed at as a child, thought was culturally insensitive as a university student and find profound today in a way that I don't think the people who made the movie ever intended.

In the movie the people of the island produce a Christmas pageant in a ruinous church with a leaky roof. The major part of the pageant is the adoration of the wise men who in the movie are represented by the King of Polynesia, the Emperor of China and the King of the United States of America. Besides the cheap laugh of seeing Lee Marvin dressed as the Statue of Liberty there is something going on in this scene that has parallels in my family. I see a group of people of mixed culture and race adapting and blending traditions from somewhere else into something that is meaningful to them. It is new but contains elements of things from somewhere else. I think of the foods my family eats on Christmas and how different those are from what we had when I was a child. It is different in every particular and yet exactly the same.

It is the same because it is the same love and joy, the same fellowship, it doesn't matter what we eat. It is, or so it seems to me, the Dickensonian Spirit of Christmas Present making merry with all who will make merry with him. It is the wonder of the Christ child, helpless in a manger. It is all things good, all things desirable and all things wonderful. It is no surprise to me that the best hymns, from a musical and theological standpoint, are often Christmas carols.

This blog averages about three hits a day. I can watch the number but don't have any idea who is behind the numbers. But, whoever you are, "Merry Christmas from me and mine to you and yours. May the love of the Christ child be yours this year and for many to come"

I may not be able to post much for the next couple of weeks.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Holiday Making Blogger

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Welcome Tyrannt

This is a scary, but well thought out article

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is scared of Tyrannts

Monday, December 03, 2007

Was that a (Y)Ip in Hell or a Hoot in Chan?

So Anson (Got her Fangs On) Chan won the election yesterday. Not really a surprise. And if the truth be know I couldn't give a hoot in Hell who won. None of the candidates except the Cecelia Ling had 1/2 a brain between them and I didn't like her that much either.

Lets see we had a choice between:

1. A Running Dog of the British (Anson Chan)

2. A Running Dog of the PRC (Regina Ip)

3. A Welfare Queen activist with an IQ in the low 80's who probably graduated 1st in her class from HKU with a degree in Social Basket Weaving (Ho Loy)

4. A union leader who despite being Chinese bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Jimmy Hoffa. I'm actually surprised he didn't do better in this election. I guess the local union thugs haven't figured out how to buy votes like they do in France the UK and the US

5. Cecelia Ling (she seemed like a fairly bright and competent person except for her generic Hong Kong secretary style helmet cut hair)

6. Some old guy with a mustache who was I think a former district councilor but who looked like the manager of a Karaoke Bar behind Nathan Road

7. Another guy who did some sort of Tai Chi for some reason or another.

8. Does anybody really know who the eighth person in this election was? The skinny guy. I saw him on TV. He had no organization, no volunteers and evidently no clue.

Those ancient Greeks who thought up the idea of participatory government must be spinning in their graves. They assumed that the cream of society would rise to the top and thus good leadership would win out. I guess they never lived here

Anson Chan may have been the cream of Hong Kong society one upon a time but that cream soured years ago. What is really sad is that she was demonstratively the best candidate in many ways.

On a stranger note, the Franklin Graham evangelistic meeting ended yesterday. 120,000 in the Stadium and easily over 100,000 more on the infield of the Happy Valley race track. I guess if you didn't like the sermon you could place a bet. Maybe the Jockey club should have taken odds on the number of professions of faith.

They also had full venues at Yuen Long and in Macao. Not counting Macao there were probably over 250,000 attending this thing if you counted all the venues. I think it says something about the number Christians in Hong Kong or possibly the amount of spiritual hunger here.

What is strange is that TVB didn't report about this on the new last night. I don't know about ATV. However, I'm just a little curious, isn't 250,000 people attending an event a newsworthy topic?

I mean if 250,000 street sweepers decided to strike and march from Chai Wan to Chatter Garden on a Sunday afternoon to demand that the government give them bigger brooms wouldn't it make the news? It would seem that the TV stations here might have been able to run a short story on it. Maybe they though all those people were going to vote.

I guess that is why I am not a journalist. I'm not able to discern what is a big story from what is important.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who can't vote in Hong Kong