Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014: Thoughts and Celebrations

It's Christmas Day here in Minnesota, and although I miss spending this special time of year with my family and friends in Australia, I feel very fortunate to have many wonderful friends here in the U.S. with whom I'm able to celebrate all the Christmas season signifies.

Above: Lisa, Brent, me, Joan, George, and Barb – December 19, 2014.

Above: At far left with (from left) Ian, George, Kimaria, Joan, Tykia, and Sadie – December 24, 2014.

I share this evening a few images of some of the celebrations I've been part of, starting with my Winter Solstice/Christmas party on December 19 and continuing throughout today (and updated with images from New Year's Eve!). These images are accompanied by some of my favorite reflections on Christmas – its meaning and significance. I also take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2015.

Christmas can help us readjust, help us see the Divine more transparently in life, in places where we would least expect. A barn, for example, a baby. The Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is a call, our belief in it a commitment, to seek awareness of the Divine free of the impediments of culture, class or even catechism. That process calls for a degree of openness most of us rarely embrace or even know as possible. Yet I have a feeling the Divine is so imminent, so within the essence of things, that it is only a matter of learned blindness that keeps us from seeing. It is not something natural to us to be so dense. We can do better. We can break through.

Angie O'Gorman
Excerpted from "The Divine is Greater Than Our Dogmas"
National Catholic Reporter
December 23, 2011

The greatest mystery of religion is the incarnation, the divine and the spiritual taking human and worldly form. In the early history of Christianity, several heresies arose on this point, and they are understandable. It is still difficult to appreciate how the absolutely spiritual is revealed in the absolutely ordinary and material. Our natural tendency is to seek spirituality in the thin air of abstraction rather than in the concrete life around us.

p. 140

The mystery [we celebrate] is that the material and the spiritual coexist. It’s the mystery of the Incarnation. Once we restore the idea that the Incarnation means God truly loves creation then we restore the sacred dimension to nature. We bring the plants and animals and all of nature in with us. They are windows into the endless creativity, fruitfulness and joy of God. We assert that we believe in the sweep of history, humanity and all of creation that Christ includes.

Incarnation is already redemption. Bethlehem was more important than Calvary. It is good to be human. The Earth is good. God has revealed that God has always been here. [Such thinking] will increasingly become mainline spirituality as we become more comfortable with an expanded view of the mystery of Incarnation in the cosmos. If we Christians had taken this mystery seriously, we would never have raped the planet like we do, never have developed such an inadequate theology about sexuality.

The incarnation is the irruption of God into human history: an incarnation into littleness and service in the midst of overbearing power exercised by the mighty of this world; an irruption that smells of the stable.

The Son of God was born into a little people, a nation of little importance by comparison with the powers of the time.

He took flesh among the poor in a marginal area—namely, Galilee; he lived with the poor and emerged from among them to inaugurate a kingdom of love and justice.

That is why many have trouble recognizing him.

Long before the Protestant Reformers insisted that men alone had the God-given authority to preach from pulpits, God’s Word was articulated in life and limb from Mary’s womb. Long before the Catholic Church argued that women were not fit for priesthood because they couldn’t adequately represent Christ at the altar – where Christ’s body is made real and offered – Jesus’ body came to life and entered the world through Mary. John’s Gospel goes out of its way to place her at the Cross, when Jesus’ male disciples have fled. Long before my own church, The Anglican Communion, debated women’s potential to serve as bishops (lit. “overseers” in Greek), God subjected himself in body and soul to the care, protection and oversight of a woman.

God did not take up flesh and enter our world in order to maintain the status quo. He was turning human society – run by men drunk on their own entitlement and power – upside down. Before this good news leaps from any man’s lips, Jesus leaps in Mary’s womb when she visits her cousin Elizabeth. If preaching is one human proclaiming that good news to another, then Mary becomes Christianity’s first preacher in that encounter. And what a sermon!

– Rev. Jude Harmon
Excerpted from "Yes, Mary Did Know. But Do We?"
December 22, 2014

The body is like Mary and each of us has a Jesus inside.
Who is not in labor, holy labor?
Every creature is.

See the value of true art
when the earth or a soul
is in the mood to create beauty,
for the witness might then for a moment know
beyond any doubt, God is really there within,
so innocently drawing life from us
with Her umbilical universe,
though also needing to be born,
yes God also needs to be born,
birth from a hand's loving touch,
birth from a song breathing life into this world.

The body is like Mary,
and each of us,
each of us, has a Christ within.

Daniel Ladinsky
Excerpted from his poem "The Body is Like Mary"

On the evening of Friday, December 19, my good friend and housemate Tim and I hosted a Winter Solstice/Christmas party.

Pictured above from left: Steve, Lisa & Brent, Margie, and Julia.

Right: Greta and Kurt.

Above: From left: Brent, Angela, Julia, Pete, Kyle, Paula, Margie, and Steve.

Above: Barb, Greta, Julia, Kurt, Paula, and Lisa.

Above: Brent, Joan, and George.

Left: At right with Margie and Steve.

Above: Angela, Tim, Kurt, and Paula.

On the morning of Saturday, December 20, Tim and I hosted a brunch for our friends Kathleen, Rick, and Brian.

Pictured above from left: Brian, Tim, Rick, and Kathleen.

Above: Rick!

Above: Tim, me, Brian, and Kathleen.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 23, my good friends John and Noelle (left) invited me to be part of their family's annual Christmas tree decorating ritual.

Pictured above from left: Curtis, Alicia, Scott, Liana, Eddie, John, and Noelle.

On December 24 I attended with friends a lovely Christmas Eve lunch hosted by my dear friends Ken and Carol.

Pictured above from left: Sue Ann, Tom, Kathleen, Carol, and Ken.

On the evening of December 24 my friend Joan hosted a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner.

Pictured above from left: Ian (with Sadie), George, Joan, Tykia, and Kimaria.

Above: Friends (from left) Tykia, Kimaria, George, Ian, and Joan – December 24, 2014.

Right: Kimaria, holding the pavlova which she helped decorate and that Joan made for dessert! It was delicious . . . and a beautiful gesture on Joan's part; she wanted to give me a little bit of my homeland at Christmas.

Christmas dinner at the always welcoming home of my friends John and Noelle.

Pictured above from left:Curtis, Liana (holding Amelia), Jackie, Ben, Noelle, John, Alicia, and Scott. Unfortunately, my friend Phil (John and Noelle's son) was not able to be home for Christmas. However, the good news is that he will be back in Minnesota for a visit in January.

Above: A lovely photo of my friends Curtis and Liana and their beautiful little daughter Amelia. In the summer of 2013 I had the honor of officiating at Liana and Curtis' wedding.

Above: Another lovely portrait shot! This one of John and Noelle's second daughter Alicia with her boyfriend Scott. That's Gordy with them!

Above: With my friend Jackie – Christmas Day 2014.

UPDATE: On New Year's Eve I had some friends over to help ring in 2015! Pictured above are Raul and Joan.

Above: Amy and Angela – December 31, 2014.

Above: D.J. Tim!

Michael: Hey, Mr. D.J., do you have any of that Bobbie Gentry swamp rock?

D.J Tim: Look, buddy, it's New Year's Eve 2014, not 1967!

Above: With friends Joan and George.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmastide Approaches
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of Both Dark and Light
Quote of the Day – December 1, 2014
Something to Cherish (2012)
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda (2011)
Quote of the Day – December 26, 2010
Christmas in Australia (2010)
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Bush Christmas (2009)
A Story of Searching and Discovery
The Christmas Truce of 1914
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection (2007)
An Australian Christmas (2006)
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll

Recommended Off-site Links:
Merry Iconoclastic Christmas – William Rivers Pitt (Truthout, December 25, 2014).
Jewish Angels and Roman Gods: The Ancient Mythological Origins of Christmas – Valerie Tarico (AlterNet via Salon, December 12, 2014).
Pulling the Princes from Their Thrones – Mike Lux (The Huffington Post, December 24, 2014).
An Unexpected Revolution – Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig (Democratic Socialists of America, December 24, 2014).

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