Silent Night – A Christmas Carol Study

This is the third blog post in a series dissecting Christmas Carols. I’ve been going through the lyrics, and explaining how they are wonderful testaments to the glory and love that is the birth of Jesus, Son of God.

You can check out O Little Town Of Bethlehem (HERE), and Away in a Manger (HERE).

This post is about the classic carol Silent Night.

Silent night, Holy night

There are a lot of Christmas carols that refer to the night of the birth of Jesus as ‘silent’ and ‘still’.

While I do not think there are any records of a specific lull, and Bethlehem being inundated with many families coming to register for the census ordered by Caesar Augustus, I think it is referring to the lack of royal heraldry that should surround the birth of a king.

Jesus, the saviour and promised king, was not born in a palace surrounded by servants; he was born in a stable (although exact locations are still debated) and laid in a manger with animals and a handful of admirers around him. Despite all of the ‘clues’ throughout the Old Testament that pointed right to Jesus, barely anyone recognised the signs. It was both silent, and Holy.

Round yon virgin, mother and child

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This line might be mistaken as saying “young”, commenting on Mary’s age. However, it is important to know that there are no indications that Mary was especially young. Instead, it refers to the prophecies and actualities of the event. In the Old Testament, we hear of Isaiah, a prophet who spoke God’s word during the time when Israel and Judah were separated. He foretold events that were close to happening, as well as those which would come long after he died. One of these things was the virgin birth of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14 reads: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

A virgin becoming pregnant and having a child was not a common thing. It was a miracle, meaning it wasn’t happening all the time. But there is one ‘person’ who could make it happen, and that was the Creator God who made and implemented these laws of nature in the first place. But you might ask, why did God choose a virgin birth? There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, as I wrote above, a virgin giving birth was not something that happened. No one had heard of it before, and it was a clear sign that this event was the one God had spoken about since the first sin.

Secondly, even though all humans are sinful, and Mary was not immune to this, Jesus was not considered a sinner before birth, because Joseph was not technically his father. In ancient Hebrew culture, it was the head of the house – the man – that influenced the sinfulness of the whole family. When we talk about Adam and Eve, even though Eve was the first to break God’s rules, Adam was, in essence, responsible for her and her actions. The male line carries the sin, and with Jesus’ male line coming from God, he was sinless even before birth.

Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

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At every stage, Jesus bucked the human-ideal of a King. Being referred to as ‘tender’ and ‘mild’ would not have been a compliment for them. However, Jesus never changed his mild demeanour. He taught against violence and hate, and performed wondrous miracles without demanding attention.

As the Son of God, the creator of Heaven, Jesus lived there before coming down to Earth, and this repeated line seems to point to his knowledge of his Godliness even as a young babe.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light

When you think of Jesus, you immediately think of love. No one, not even the Pharisees desperate to demean his name and Godly-personage, could truthfully state a sin he committed.

Jesus also called himself ‘the Light’. John 8:12 records: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is a beautiful representation of God’s love and power, as light is not only comforting – as in a night-light to little children – but light drives out the darkness, darkness cannot drive out the light.

Radiant beams from thy holy face

How many of you have seen images like the ones above? Have you ever thought about why Jesus – and Saints in Catholicism – have their head surrounded by a circle of light?

This ring of light is called a halo and features in all sorts of art. When we see them in relation to Jesus, it is a way of attempting to capture the light that shone from his face. No, Jesus did not actually have a glowing head, it is a symbol of his pureness and the love that emanated from him. One definition of ‘radiance’ is: great joy or love, apparent in someone’s expression or bearing. (As a side-note, an example I found for this definition is about a bride’s radiant smile, which is an interesting connection, because Jesus is often referred to as being ‘married’ to the church).

A few Bible verses use this imagery.

The Lord make his face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
Numbers 6:25

So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel
saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face
shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
Exodus 34:30

Who is like the wise man and who knows
the interpretation of a matter? A man’s
wisdom illumines him and causes his stern
face to beam.
Ecclesiastes 8:1

There are many, many more examples, which you can find HERE.

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus was only just born, and already he was being praised for his Godliness and Holiness. Not only was this because the people knew who he was, but because it was the beginning of all they had been promised. They knew what he had come to do, and for that promise to have come true, it meant all the other promises would as well.

The Israelites hadn’t always had a smooth existence. We all know about the Israelites being held as slaves in Egypt and God’s miraculous rescue. However, it was far from being the only example. With every human tracing back to Adam and Eve, it is natural the story goes all the way back to them. God spoke to Satan, and Genesis 3:15 reads: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This ‘he’ is Jesus, who Satan knew would one day destroy him. So at every chance he got, Satan has tried to turn people from God, and mess-up God’s plan to have Jesus be born. All too many times Israel turned from God and got their deserved punishment, and at the time of Jesus’ birth, they were under Roman rule. So with Jesus the fulfilment of the birth, they knew they were on the ‘dawn’ of their redemption from Satan and sin.

Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

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It is in the New Testament that we learn the most about Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament, we are told what to expect and look for, but it is through the Gospels that we fully learn about our Lord, Jesus. Most of the accounts tell of Jesus’ ministry, with a few telling of his birth, and very little about his childhood.

So does that mean Jesus was not God when he was younger? Did he not know? I, personally, believe Jesus knew he was God from birth, and that is what this repeated line means to me. They were not back-projecting praise when he became God later-on in life, they were saying that he was God since birth.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight

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Despite a lot of Christmas carols saying three Kings came to visit Jesus, there are no actual account of this. Instead, it was shepherds, and then Wise Men (there are no times when it says three, people just assume that because they brought three gifts).

The shepherds were watching their flocks one night (also noteworthy is that Jesus most likely wasn’t born on December 25 because the weather wouldn’t have permitted shepherds and their flocks at that time). Suddenly, Angels of Heaven appeared to them. These beings are not the angels seen above, and were strange looking creatures.

I found a good description on a website called What Christians Want To Know:

Angels are not composed of physical matter but are spirit
beings created by God (Heb. 1:14).  They can resemble human
form when God permits or wills it (Gen. 19).  There are different
orders or ranks of angels in heaven.  Those that covered the
throne in heaven were mighty seraphim angels.  They had six
wings that hovered over the throne of God.   Two of the
seraphim’s wings covered their faces because God is so holy that
even the seraphim angels could not look upon God (Isaiah 6:2).
Another set of wings covered their feet for they were in the midst
of holy ground where God abided and Moses (Exodus 3:5) and Joshua (Joshua 5:15) had to remove their shoes while in the presence of
God.  Angels do have some human features like feet, voices,
and faces (Isaiah 6:1-2).

If you witnessed something like this, you would “quake at the sight” too. Even if they were in human-like form, there was still something about them that wasn’t usual.

Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.

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We read in the above section that the shepherds were terrified of this strange sight. Imagine their amazement when the angels began singing! ‘Hallelujah’ means ‘Praise the Lord’.

I recently got a children’s picture Bible (reviewed HERE), and I think it explains this part so all people can understand:

Then, all at once, the whole sky was full
of angels. They were singing together,
praising and thanking God for his gift to
the world. “Glory to God in heaven,” they
sang, “and peace on earth to those who
love him.”

What a spectacular sight and something to write about!

Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.

What is a ‘Saviour’? The dictionary defines it as: “a person who saves someone something from danger or difficulty.” Sounds interesting, but still kind of bland. Jesus is the Saviour, but he is definitely not bland.

There’s a lot to this, so I’ll summaries it in points and can explain further upon request.

  1. We were made to be sinless and live with God. God is holy and perfect, so can’t be around sin and let it continue.
  2. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were telling God that they wanted him to take a step back, so he did.
  3. With God’s eternal life for us now gone (remember, God can’t let sin continue and thrive), we were going to die. God didn’t want that to be the end.
  4. God taught Adam and Eve (who taught the continuing generations, etc.) how to conduct sacrifices. This death of animals wasn’t pleasant, and each time, they would have to see what their sin was doing (there was no death or suffering before the first sin). This death was to take the place for their death, making them once again right with God. But these were only animals, and it wasn’t enough to cover ALL of their future sins.
  5. There was only one sacrifice that could cover the sin, and that was a pure and sinless being. Not only this, but this being needed to defeat death. Death is an enemy to be feared, and needed to be overcome. Jesus was this being.

Jesus was – and is – definitely our saviour. He saved us from the danger of sin and eternal death.

Will you be thinking about these reasons the next time you sing Silent Night?

What is it about this song that you love the most? Let me know in the comments below, or write your own blog post and link me!

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Away In A Manger – A Christmas Carol Study

Welcome to my second Christmas Carol study.

Yesterday I published my first, about O Little Town Of Bethlehem (which you can check out HERE), and today I’m looking at Away In A Manger.

Have a listen, read my thoughts, and leave a comment.

Let’s jump right in.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

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When you think of a King, you think of lines of royal parents, being born in a palace, surrounded by powerful people and adoring subjects. This was not the case for Jesus. Despite being the Lord, Creator, and Saviour, Jesus was born to a humble virgin, surrounded by animals, a handful of admirers, and no real bed.

A manger, also called a trough, is a wooden construct used to hold food for farm animals. It was definitely not a place for a baby, let alone God. For God to choose for his son to be born into this environment, shows how much he loves us, and that Jesus was right in saying he came to serve, not to be served.

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

Among the stars shining bright in the night sky, was the Star of Bethlehem.

Prophesied many, many years earlier, God placed a star, brighter than all the others, above the place where Jesus was. This led the Magi (not Kings, and there are no records of it being only three) to him, where they knelt down and worshipped him.

Seeming almost unaware of his Godly status (although it could rightly be argued that there was never a time when Jesus didn’t know he was God), the newborn baby Jesus slept peacefully.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

This is a very well-known part of the story of the first Christmas. However, there are no records of baby Jesus not crying. Jesus came to Earth, not just to die and rise again so we can spend eternity with God, but so we could have a close relationship with him.

How could you talk to someone (which is what praying is – a conversation with God) who had had no experiences like you had? You would have a hard time. This is why God came down to Earth; to connect with us. This means he probably would have cried as a newborn baby.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

got20the20world20in20his20hands

The second half of the song takes us forward in time, to after Jesus died, rose, and returned to Heaven to reign.

From his place in Heaven, we know Jesus is watching over us (I don’t know if Heaven is physically ‘above’ us), and that is worthy of our love and devotion.

It also shows that while God is above us, looking over everything in his creation, he is also close to us, standing right by our beds.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

Matthew 19:14 records Jesus’ words:

“Let the little children
come to me and do
not hinder them, for
to such belongs the
kingdom of heaven.”

Not only do vulnerable children mean a lot to God, but we are all his children, and we all mean a lot to him.

This last line is what it is all about. When Adam and Eve sinned (essentially telling God to take a step back) we separated ourselves from eternal life with God. God promised he would not just let us go, and he came down as Jesus to give us a second chance. If we put our faith and trust in Jesus and acknowledge that he took our penalty of death, then we get to spend eternity with him in heaven.

This Christmas carol focuses on two great things about Jesus: his birth, in which he lowered himself to be born as a lowly human; and his position in Heaven. Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity, and holds a supreme position in Heaven. He loves us, looks after us, and deserves all the songs of praise we write.

O Little Town Of Bethlehem – A Christmas Carol Study

With Christmas approaching, it seems like everyday I have another Christmas song playing in my head. In about a week there will be numerous Christmas Carol events playing on the TV, with thousands in the audience singing along. But how much do they know about the songs and their meanings?

It’s a sad state of affairs that most of the people in the audience probably aren’t even Christian, so I wanted to look at what they can learn about the religion from these songs, if they only opened their hearts and truly listened.

The first song I’m dissecting is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Have a listen, read my thoughts, and leave a comment.

Here we go…

O little town of Bethlehem,

As with pretty much every Christmas carol, this song is about the event of the birth of Jesus, who is both God, and the fulfilment of the promise made by God to save humanity from eternal death.

The Old Testament book of Micah, Chapter 5, verse 2, states:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

This clearly points to Bethlehem – in the district of Ephrathah – as being the place where Jesus would be born. From Genesis 3:14-15, the first book in the Bible, we read about God telling Satan that Jesus would be born and they will battle, but Jesus will win. This all happened shortly after creation, and is definitely from ‘ancient times’.

Although Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, were from Nazareth, they had travelled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that every male of age needed to be recorded in a census (counting how many people there are). As Joseph’s line traced back to King David, he needed to go to David’s birth place – Bethlehem.

In Romans times, Bethlehem also wasn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, so his birth here is indicative of Jesus’ desire to not be seen as royalty by Earth standards.

How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.

With the census bringing many people to the area, it is often assumed that places such as inns (ancient-time hotels) would have been very busy.

Luke 2:7 states: “She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

I don’t know how quiet and still it would have been with so many people there, but it is showing that, despite the human birth of God right there with them, it was not heralded like royalty should be (especially God royalty).

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light,

Star-of-Bethlehem

The Star of Bethlehem was prophesied long before this night. When the Israelites were leaving Egypt where they had been held as slaves for generations, God led them by a cloud during the day, and a cloud with fire during the night. As the creator, God has the power to change what he created. He did this with the Star of Bethlehem.

It was the Magi (not Kings, and there are no records of it being only three), that saw the star in the sky, and followed it, knowing it would lead to Jesus. These Magi, or Wise Men, were most likely Jewish scholars, who had studied the ancient texts very carefully, and recognised the sign from God that many others didn’t.

“The everlasting Light” is also another way of referring to Jesus, as John recorded in John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””

The hopes and fears of all the years,
Are met in thee tonight.

Since Adam and Eve first disobeyed God and caused humanity to be separated from everlasting life with God, there was obviously a lot to fear. But there was also a lot to hope for. As I said above, all the way back then, God promised that Jesus would come and we would get another chance to spend eternity with him.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim thy holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King,
And peace to men on earth.

While it is beautiful imagery to think of stars singing praises to their creator, it’s unlikely it actually happened. However, Jesus was – and is – someone to loudly and proudly proclaim our love for.

Again, when Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they caused the fall of EVERYTHING. Humans weren’t the only ones to suffer. Animals – who were all created to be vegetarians – began to fight and eat each other; the land became hard to work; and with God taking the step back we requested, the lack of perfection caused all of Earth (natural phenomenon) to ‘fall’ into chaos. With the redemption promised through Jesus, all of these would one day be restored to perfection.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

Mary-and-Baby-Jesus

This first line is a VERY important one. Note it does not say: ‘Mary and Joseph‘. It just says ‘Mary’. And why? Because Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Even a cursory look at ancient texts from the time, you can see that families were recorded by the male lineage, not the female. God chose to divert from that because he was showing yet again that the Earth-way of doing things wasn’t the right and holy way.

Again looking at Genesis 3:14-15, God spoke to Satan, saying:

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Over and over again in the Bible, there are prophecies that not only talk about an approaching event, but an event at a far away time. The bold and underlined identifiers were added by me to show that God was talking about Mary and Jesus. Jesus would be the foe of Satan, and Jesus was the offspring of Mary (not a man).

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

This ‘Gift’ is Jesus and his promise of everlasting life with God in Heaven. Being meek isn’t something humans often praise, but God glorifies those who do not boast or ‘play a part’ in the sinful nature of this world.

For those that receive Jesus and proclaim him as their saviour, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will enter us and work in us, and we will get our promised  – though not deserved – reward.

Where children pure and happy,
Pray to the blessed child.
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stand watching,
And faith holds hope wide the door,
The dark night wakes,
The glory breaks,
And christmas once more.

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During his ministry, Jesus often spoke of the pureness of children: their love and faith. When children come to God and pray to him, it is the sweetest thing in the world.

Jesus came FOR us. He didn’t come to be served, he came to serve. “The dark night wakes”, the darkness leaves when the light (Jesus = Light) arrives.

This is a beautiful song that has a very important message. I hope you liked my ‘review’, and might listen a bit more closely to these songs and praise the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Don’t forget to check out the next in the series: ‘Away in a Manger’ HERE.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Last one! Credit to you if you stayed with me this long. =)

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, Day 8 HERE, Day 9 HERE, Day 10 HERE, and Day 11 HERE.

DAY 12. What are you grateful for this Christmas?

Every night when I say my prayers, I list ten things I am thankful/grateful for. I’ve been focusing on doing it for about a month now, and it really makes a difference in perspective.
With the annual celebration of the birth of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus coming up, it is a time to remember all the things God has done for us, and thank him for them.
This year, I am thankful for the following (not a complete list):
  • My sister and her fiancée having a safe trip to America
  • My career/work getting on track
  • Health improving (whole family)
  • Able to catch-up with friends a bit more
  • Learning more about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and everything
  • Chatting with new people I’ve met through this blog
  • Brother taking a break from his job to work and relax overseas
  • Being able to teach scripture to kids in schools
There are so many things to be thankful/grateful for, and this is just a short list of them.
What are some of the things you’re grateful for this Christmas? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

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Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Almost there!

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, Day 8 HERE, Day 9 HERE, and Day 10 HERE.

DAY 11. What was your favourite childhood Christmas present?

The other day I read an article about a couple who bought ~300 presents for their kids for Christmas. As can be expected, the internet had a lot to say about it. While some were saying they can do whatever they want with their money, others pointed out that spoiling children is akin to abuse.
When it comes to my family, sometimes too much emphasis was put on the presents – when we were little kids. Being a single parent, Mum always felt like she wasn’t doing a good enough job, and tried to show us her love in that way. I still remember being a little kid telling her she didn’t need to buy so many presents. Now I’m not saying we got anywhere near as many (after all, we didn’t have enough money for that, anyway), but this history comes to mind when I read this question.
Despite all the weight Mum put on our presents, I don’t really remember any from my childhood that was my favourite.
I love all the gifts that I get, but what I remember more about the day, are the jokes we share and the games we play.
What was your favourite childhood Christmas present? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

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Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, Day 8 HERE, and Day 9 HERE.

DAY 10. Favourite Christmas movie or song?

I’ve been waiting for this question. At odd times throughout the year a Christmas song will pop into my head, but it feels different when it’s closing in on December.

MOVIE – 
My favourite Christmas movie would probably have to be Die Hard (1988). I know it’s not Christmas-themed, but it is set at a Christmas party and they do have some Christmas music playing.
TV SHOW – 
I also like to rewatch Christmas episodes of TV shows. There are a few from The Middle (2009-), there’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Amends, and any others that pop on the TV.
SONG – 
Choosing my favourite Christmas song is definitely harder. When I was little, my brother, sister, and I used to listen to Christmas carols as we went to sleep. Only this year did I buy a whole bunch of songs off iTunes and really listened to them again.
A few weeks ago I also found a cool band called Pentatonix. They are an American a cappella group that had uploaded some Christmas songs to YouTube.
Two of them made me fall in love with the season all over again.
First we have ‘Little Drummer Boy’:
And here’s ‘Mary, Did You Know’:
What is your favourite Christmas movie or song? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

christmas4.jpg

Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, and Day 8 HERE.

DAY 9. Who will be sitting with you for Christmas dinner?

In my family, our get-together time is at lunch. With my sister and her fiancee getting married next year, I don’t know how long before little kids are added and they are spending holidays away, so I am thankful they will be coming.

My grandma – 93 years old – is having lunch with us, and is always a hilarious companion.
My mum, of course, and my brother has postponed his overseas trip so he can spend Christmas with us.

That’s pretty much it.

Who will be sitting with you for Christmas dinner this year? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

christmas4.jpg

Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.