Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015: Reflections 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 that the Christmas season signifies.

Above (from left): Kalvin, Kimaria, Tykia, Joan, Ian (with Sadie), Angela, me, Nathan, and George – Christmas Eve.

Right: With Brent, a wonderful guy I've been dating since October.

Below: A gathering of friends for the holiday party Tim and I hosted on December 16.

Above: At right with my good friend and housemate Tim and his girlfriend Colleen – December 16, 2015.

I share this evening a few images of some of the celebrations I've been part of, starting with a holiday gathering on December 16 and my Winter Solstice/Christmas party on December 18 and continuing throughout today. (And updated with images from New Year's Eve!) These images are accompanied by some 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 2016.

God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy. This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. . . . The challenge is to let God be who [God] wants to be. A part of us clings to our aloneness and does not allow God to touch us where we are most in pain. Often we hide from God precisely those places in ourselves where we feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and lost. Thus we do not give God a chance to be with us where we feel most alone. Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let God – whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend – be our companion.

A Christmas that idolizes prosperity and ignores suffering is no Christmas at all. Pope Francis believes that Christmas is less about preaching tidings of comfort and enjoyment, and more about encountering and walking with those who are afflicted by discomfort and pain. For Francis, war-torn Mosul, impoverished Bangui, and struggling Juarez are the cultural centers of Christmas much more than New York, London, or even Rome. . . . The pope isn’t making this up out of thin air. Christmas, too domesticated and romanticized over time, is nothing short of a subversive and revolutionary holiday. To understand Francis’ war on the bourgeois version of Christmas, we must encounter the story once again with new eyes. . . . No one would have expected the messiah to be born in poverty, obscurity, and exclusion, far from the cultural and political centers of the world. But that’s God’s Christmas logic.

– Christopher Hale
Excerpted from "Pope Francis’ War on Christmas"
December 24, 2015
p. 140

Human beings have proved their capacity to survive suffering, bad luck, poverty, isolation, natural disasters. Christ did, after all, and that's one of the rites we celebrate for each other at Christmas. We age and we die (old Christmas photos provide evidence), but we think about it, and at our best, sing about it. Christmas, much more than New Year's Eve, is the ritual that asks us to take stock, remember, allow our minds and consciences to be flooded with our own history. If we are honest, this will not lead us to back-slapping cheeriness, but it might bring us the quiet joy that we have done our job as human beings by living out our lives, however many Christmases we have marked off on the calendar.

– Bill Holm
Excerpted from Faces of Christmas Past
pp. 58-59

Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.
Let us be aware of the source of being,
common to us all and to all living things.
Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion,
let us fill our hearts with our own compassion –
towards ourselves and towards all living beings.
Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be
the cause of suffering to each other.
With humility, with awareness of the existence of life,
and of the sufferings that are going on around us,
let us practice the establishment of peace
in our hearts and on earth.

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.

– Gustavo Gutiérrez
Excerpted from The Good Life

Above and below: Photos from the December 16 holiday party that my housemate and friend Tim and I hosted for members and friends of our yoga group.

Right: With my friend and work colleague Julia – December 17, 2015. We're pictured with gifts for our TRUST Meals on Wheels clients provided through the Wreath of Love program.

On the evening of Friday, December 18, my good friend and housemate Tim and I hosted our annual Winter Solstice/Christmas party. Pictured above are friends Lisa and Brent and Colleen.

Left: With my friend Pete – December 18, 2015.

Above: Javier, Raul, Kathleen and Ron.

Above: Alfredo, Lisa, Rick and Kathleen.

Above: Kathy, John, Kathleen, Joan, George, Brent and John.

Above: Lisa and Brent.

Above: Tim, Julia, Edgar and Brent.

Above: Pete and Colleen.

Above: Margie and Alfredo.

Above: Brent, Kathy and Joan.

Above: Raul and Ron.

Above: Margie and John.

Right: George and John.

Above: Javier, me, Kathleen, Ron and Rick.

Left: Tim and Colleen.

Above: Joan, Brent and Kathleen.

Above: With Lisa and Brent.

Above: Alfredo and John.

Above: Kathleen and Joan – December 18, 2015.

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


Above: Alicia and Scott.

Above: Friends Liana and Curtis with their beautiful little daughter Amelia.

Left: Brittany and Phil with Gordy.

Above: Scott and Phil.

Right: With Eddie.

For more photos of this handsome dog, click here, here, here and here.

Above: Liana and Amelia decorating the tree.

Above: With my dear friend Joan – Christmas Eve 2015.

Above: Tykia and Kimaria – Christmas Eve 2015.

Above: At Cecil's Deli, Bakery and Restaurant in St. Paul, where I had a delicious Christmas Day lunch with my friends Rick and Brian.

Above: Christmas dinner at the always welcoming home of my friends John and Noelle. Pictured from left: Alicia, Scott, Liana, Amelia, Curtis, Noelle, Ben, Phil and John.

Above: Little Amelia with her Aunty Alicia.

Above: With my dear friend Rita McDonald, CSJ, one of the renowned McDonald Sisters – Sunday, December 27, 2015.

Along with Marguerite Corcoran, CSJ, Rita was my “companion” during my CSJ consociate candidacy process in 2006-2007.

Above: Quinn – December 27, 2015.

Above: Celebrating New Year's Eve. With me from left: Brent, Tim, Colleen, Brian and Kelly.

Above: Seeing 2016 in with a vigorous game of table tennis!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas 2014: Thoughts and Celebrations
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
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:
War is Over! – If You Want It: Christmas Celebrates Nonviolence – John Dear (Common Dreams, December 25, 2015).
Christmas 2015 – Why There Is No Peace On Earth – David Stockman (David Stockman's Contra Corner, December 25, 2015).
Cardinal Seán: Christmas Joy is About Solidarity, Rejecting Ayn Rand Extreme Individualism – Robert Christian (Millennial, December 28, 2015).
When Words Become Flesh: Risking Vulnerability in a Violent World – Parker Palmer (On Being, December 23, 2015).
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).

Images: Michael J. Bayly and friends.

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