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It’s the night before the night before. The stockings aren’t hung by the chimney with care, but I really was hoping that Saint Nicholas would have been “there” to help with the potato filling tonight. I never complain about cooking, but my legs are heavy this evening. It must be all of that other bustle that goes along with Christmas. There were more than a few last minute items to take care of today.
If you’ve read the potato filling post, you know that making it is a multi-step process. So, I had pots and pans lined up all across my kitchen counter. In addition, I made a “mega batch” of tomato soup for those who have to stay at church between Christmas Eve services tomorrow night. To make the white sauce faster I decided to divide the roux and milk between two saucepans. Not a creature was stirring? Oh, I was stirring all right! That kept me busy, and was really a dumb idea.
In the interest of keeping it simple this week, I’m offering a recipe for a simple side dish…a relish. It’s so easy to make, the ingredients are simple, and you get to use a tool! It’s “There’s a Dad in the Kitchen” at its finest!
Cranberry Relish has graced our Thanksgiving and Christmas tables since I can remember. No one remembers where the recipe came from, but my mother thinks it may have been Virginia High. It’s different than most cranberries you’ve had in the past, and certainly an improvement on the jiggly blob that comes out of the can. Plus, you don’t have to cook it!
At the end of this post, I’m also offering this year’s Christmas meditation. Each year, for more years than I can count, I’ve written a Christmas devotional. I’ve often given it at the Christmas Eve service at Parker Ford Church, but always share it with friends and family, enclosing it in Christmas cards. This year’s meditation is entitled, “Ready and Waiting,” and appears below.
You have my best wishes for a joyous holiday, filled with the true meaning of the season. I’m praying that you’ll be able to push aside all of the extraneous stuff that truly has nothing to do with Christmas, so that the miracle of Christ’s birth would become real to you. Merry Christmas!
- 1 lb. bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed
- 1 navel orange
- ¼ to ½ cup sugar
To do this right, you’re going to need an old-fashioned meat grinder. They’re the heavy kitchen tools that your grandmother fastened to her countertop and would crank to operate. I have to fasten mine on a cutting board, as the bracket would ruin my kitchen countertops. It helps to position a damp towel or dish cloth under the cutting board to keep it from sliding around.
After rinsing the cranberries, cull out any that are questionable. The old rule of thumb, if it doesn’t bounce, it’s not good, works! Prep the orange in advance, too. Cut off just the very ends, and quarter the orange. Cut each of those wedges in half across the wedge. You’re ready to start grinding.
I usually grind the cranberries first. Position a medium bowl under the “output” end of the meat grinder to catch the ground cranberries. Next, grind the orange pieces, skin and all. You’ve heard of zest? This relish has a boatload of zest!
After grinding, add about ¼ cup of sugar and stir. You’re probably going to add another 3-4 Tablespoons of sugar, but a half cup usually makes the cranberry relish too sweet.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. It’s best to make this at least 24 hours in advance. Stir it several times and taste test to see if you need to add more sugar. This is a great accompaniment to turkey, but also goes well with chicken and other fowl dishes.
2011 Christmas Meditation: “Ready and Waiting”
When you stop and think about it, Jesus’ birth went largely unnoticed. His place of birth was totally obscure. Not only was Bethlehem a hick town, but having a child in a cave filled with animals made his birth even less of an event. Sure, there were the shepherds who “came with haste,” but it was only a handful. Shepherds, after all, were seldom viewed as model citizens. They were held in low regard. They couldn’t leave their flocks to observe the Sabbath. Even if they could have, it wouldn’t have mattered any way. Because of their living conditions, they were regarded as “unclean,” unable to take part in religious ceremonies. People probably heard the rumors about what they had seen on their hillside outside of Bethlehem, but most would have dismissed this without a second thought. And the wise men didn’t arrive for another year or two. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ family was living in a house by then.
It was no surprise that after about six weeks, when the time came for Joseph and Mary and the baby to go to Jerusalem for the required ceremonies, they were able to do so without drawing any attention. They went to the temple for the required purification of Mary as the mother of a newborn baby. The young family didn’t have the means for the preferred burnt offering of a lamb, so they took advantage of the allowance the law provided, offering two pigeons instead; one for the burnt offering and one for the sin offering. As further prescribed by the law they took the required contribution of five shekels for the temple treasury. This was for the redemption of the first-born. All first-born males belonged to God. In essence, the five shekels enabled them to buy their son back from God. Isn’t it interesting that while they had to redeem their son, Jesus himself would become the redemption of not only the nation of Israel, but of all of mankind?
It would appear that the long-awaited Messiah had arrived largely unnoticed. He, whose coming had been prophesied hundreds of years before, came in largely under the radar. No one was ready and waiting…with the exception of two senior citizens.
Anna had been a widow for almost 60 of her 84 years. She lived in the temple. We read that she spent all of her time worshipping, fasting, and praying. Night and day, she devoted herself to seeking God.
Simeon, was probably old as well. He, too, was no stranger to the temple. Simeon was a godly man who was righteous and devout. He was also acquainted with the Holy Spirit, and it was God’s Spirit who had revealed to him that he would not see death until he saw the Messiah. What an incredible promise!
Moved by the same Spirit who had given him this blessed assurance, Simeon entered the temple courts. It was there he came face-to-face with his Redeemer.
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
“…in the sight of all nations…” Isn’t it curious that everyone missed it; everyone, with the exception of a handful of shepherds and two old people? Even those milling about the temple precincts were blind to what was going on. Anna affirmed what Simeon had said, and she spoke to anyone who would listen…especially those who, like herself, were expectantly watching and waiting.
Almost everyone missed it; even those who were looking forward to Israel’s redemption.
It makes you wonder: Why did God choose to come to earth in this way? To the world, it wasn’t memorable. It wasn’t impressive. And yet, it fulfilled the prophecies of so many scriptures.
The people had what they needed in order to be prepared to receive the Messiah. The prophecies were widely known and discussed. Not only did the Scriptures inform them, but God’s Spirit was at work. The Spirit’s full power would not be released until the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but for Simeon and Anna its work was effective.
We can’t be too hard on those in Jesus’ day who missed his coming. We have everything that we need in order to find him, too…in fact more than they had. And yet, how many times do we miss him? It’s not just a casual, distracted slight. Often, we are oblivious…inebriated by our cares and concerns, our wants and our desires, we miss him totally and completely.
Above all, we have to be ready for God to surprise us. He doesn’t color inside the lines. He doesn’t have to play by the “rules.” He makes the rules.
Think about it. Jesus was always catching people by surprise. It wasn’t only his birth that caught people unaware. His life, his teachings, and his ministry were shocking. He said things that upended what had been thought to be rock-solid foundations. He challenged the status quo, while at the same time fulfilling prophecy and revealing the true mind of God. “You have heard it said…but I tell you…”
What he said didn’t bring relief. On the contrary, it raised the bar. He made it clear that God has a standard for us to live up to, and that standard is perfection. Good deeds and effort will never be enough. The need for a Savior, the necessity of a Redeemer, cannot be argued.
And then he surprised us again. He laid down his life as the ultimate sacrifice. His blood, his perfect blood, shed to once and for all blot out our sins, enabling all who accept him and believe to become the perfect beings God demands.
There was still one surprise. He rose from the dead to prove that death has been conquered, and that while we will continue to fight the battles of living in this world, the war has been won and the victory is assured.
The question this Christmas is: Are you ready and waiting to receive Jesus, this little baby who showed the world that he was just full of surprises?