The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

ON TRUE CHARITY

When I first met Br. Thomas, OSF I was struck by the fact that he spoke infrequently and then only softly, but he listened avidly to each person who spoke and with a great intensity – as though that person’s words had the import of a final earthly utterance.  Perhaps that was natural for him or perhaps it was an acquired skill he had developed.  He had spent over twenty years ministering to those who came to the hospice that his Franciscan priory maintained for those who were dying.

I couldn’t imagine the strength of his and his brothers’ faith to be able to deal on a daily basis with those who came to that hospice – knowing that none of them had long to live and none would leave on their own.  Perhaps that is less a testament to his view of life than it is a statement about my shallowness of spirit.  This reverent man made me feel vey humble by his gentle, taciturn demeanor.

Those who minister without fanfare to the sick, the poor and the dying must hold a very special place in God’s love.  That the mendicant orders have been with us for centuries demonstrates that despite the contentious nature of so many of us, there are at least some who are willing to contribute to them so that they can carry out their much needed, good works.

Another order, The Little Sisters of the Poor which also maintains hospices, has been in the news lately because of their position regarding provisions of the ACA and their refusal to compromise their religious principles.  Like their brother Franciscans, their charity and care is not reserved to those who are Roman Catholic.  Their compassion is open to all those who are at their final moments, irrespective of creed or lack of one.

 

 

Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
Adam lay ibouden,
Bouden in a bond;
For thousand winter
Thought he not too long.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!

And all was for an appil,
An appil that he tok,
As clerkès finden
Written in their book.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!

Ne had the appil takè ben,
The appil takè ben,
Ne haddè never our lady
A ben hevenè quene.

Blessèd be the time
That appil takè was.
Therefore we moun singen.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!

(Anonymous, 15th century)

At this time of year, most of us feel obligated (or if you prefer, inspired) to go out and buy presents for friends, loved ones, or ourselves.  I’ve tried to reign in the temptation to spend, spend and spend more by enacting a simple rule.  For every dollar that I spend on gifts (and I mostly now make my own rather than finding them on store shelves) I donate an equal amount to charities which truly represent the spirit of Christmas, not just at this season but throughout the year.  Nevertheless, there are some people for whom a store bought purchase seems most appropriate.

One of the sites which offers the shopper an opportunity to reduce her or his out of pocket costs is eBates.  The site allows a person to link through their site to over five hundred well known and more obscure internet retailers and earn rebates on their purchases which range between two percent and as much as fifty percent.  They also offer a program for members who refer new members in the amount of five dollars per referral.   My referral link is listed below:

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=4cwCeH%2FFsKXfalPzt9zdgA%3D%3D&eeid=26471

If you are not familiar with the program, I encourage you to take a moment and review its features and benefits.

The reason for my making what is my first “commercial” appeal in nearly 900 posts is simple.  I will take any referral bonuses and combine them with my own contribution and donate those to The Little Sisters of the Poor – this being my designated charity for the year.  I hope you will contribute to that effort.  Or, if you’re already an eBates member, I’ve attached a link to their website so that you might read more about their good work and perhaps consider making a donation to them directly.

http://www.littlesistersofthepoor.org/

I wish all of my readers a blessed remainder of Advent and the joy of a wonderful Christmas.

Advertisements

THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS

What is a celebration without good music?  It’s rather like having an exquisitely prepared punch bowl, filled to the brim with a delightful sparkling beverage and no ladle to serve it.

The following piece, “O, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” though not one of the traditional carols, is the inspiring and most famous composition of American, R. Fisher Boyce.  Though it is less than one hundred years old, perhaps you will add it to your play list and help it become one of your family’s traditional Christmas tunes.

Here it is performed in a jubilant, “revivalist style” arrangement by the consummate all male soprano group, Chanticleer.

SANTA’S WORKSHOP

It was nearly quitting time a few days after Christmas when the door knocker at Santa’s Workshop began sounding.  As he was the nearest of the elves, Godwin walked to the front of the factory, hopped up on a little stool and then on to the stepladder by the door.  When he reached the top rung, he swung open the peep hole and saw the snow blowing fiercely outside.  He was used to that – but what surprised him were all the tanks and other vehicles and the large assembly of men and soldiers who were outside the door.

“May I help you,?” Godwin asked.

A man held up a badge which said, ‘Federal Bureaucracy of Interrogation.  Godwin had never seen one of these before.

“We’re here to see one S. Claus,” the man said.

“Just a minute, sir,” Godwin said.  And he closed the peep hole and quickly scrambled down the ladder.

When he got to the bottom he turned to face the workshop, put his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Santa.  We have visitors.”

Santa was in his office.  He had just finished setting up the “Naughty and Nice” book for the next season.  He grabbed the book and put it on the shelf space which had been reserved for it, next to all the other ones that he had inscribed in years past.  He pulled back from the desk, walked through the workshop and went to the front door.

When he opened the door the agent at the front of the entourage without greeting barged through the door and shoved his badge in Santa’s face.

“Special agent N. Quisitor.  Are you S. Claus?”

Santa, a little startled at the man’s rudeness replied, “I’m Santa Claus.  May I help you?”

“Please, gentlemen.  Come in from the cold.”  And the group waiting outside the door came into the warm workshop, stomping the snow from their boots.

“We’re here because there are some serious problems which have been raised by your operation.  In fact calling them problems is an understatement.  I have a list of violations, an extensive list for which you must answer.”

“Violations of what,?” Santa asked.

“Federal regulations,” Special Agent N. Quisitor replied.

“I can’t imagine anything that we’ve done anything wrong, “ Santa replied.  “What exactly are these violations?”

“Well, to start with, we have no record of your filing any tax returns.  That means that you are not only in violation of the IRC as a non-filer but you have not paid over the FICA tax you are withholding from your employees’ paychecks, nor have you paid your employer’s share of that tax.  And we have no record of your having paid any unemployment insurance for your employees.”

“Well, that’s easy to understand.  You see, sir we don’t pay the elves any salary.  They work for the simple joy of it and receive their room and board in return.  And we don’t make any profit at this business.  We do this simply for the joy of being able to provide presents for the children all around the world.”

A look of shock came over N. Quisitor’s face.  He responded, “Well, in addition to your failure to file the appropriate returns you are also in violation of the Federal Minimum Wage law.  In fact, you’re probably also in violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery.  Your elves are little more than indentured servants.”

“Indeed,” said Santa.  “Nothing could be further from the truth.  Feel free to ask any of the elves if they are held against their will.  They all share my joy at the work we do and if any of them wanted to leave he is free to do so at any time.  But if you speak with them, you’ll find they have all been with me for centuries and are happy to be here.”

“Then there’s the matter of your violating OSHA requirements that you provide ramp accessible access to your facilities for your vertically challenged and otherwise physically handicapped employees.  You will admit that your elf employees have a height issue, wouldn’t you?  I suspect that you haven’t properly retrofitted your lavatories to accommodate them either.”

N. Quisitor went on.  “Then there’s the issue that there are only male elves here in your workshop.  That is a clear violation of the EEOC requirement that employment be offered irrespective of gender.”

“Well, you see,” said Santa, “the lady elves are all at home taking care of their children.  They are busy rearing them, feeding them and they also are the teachers in Elf School.”

“And what is the curriculum in your so-called ‘Elf School’?   Do you use the Common Core which is now mandatory in all grammar schools?”

“No.  We teach the same thing that we have taught for centuries – toy making,  Since that’s what we do here, that’s what the young elves need to learn.”

“Well, that’s a violation of Article XIII of the ‘Universal Mandatory Education Act’.  You will be held accountable for this gross deficiency and violation of the law.”

“Now, on to the allegation that you have been depositing coal in certain of the stockings which people hang.  Is that true?”

“Well, sadly it is true.  You see, I would rather that no one get any coal but unfortunately … ,” which was as much as Santa could say before Special Agent N. Quisitor cut him off.

“Aha.  You realize that you are in violation of EPA regulation  27399 – Section 124 Paragraph 9.  “The use of coal or making trade in coal whether anthracite or bituminous is hereby prohibited as it is responsible for pollution and global warming.  Are you admitting that you are violating this regulation?  Furthermore, I noticed as we came in that there is a herd of reindeer outside your facility.  Are those yours?”

“Well of course they are.  There’s Prancer and Dancer…”  N. Quisitor interrupted the jolly old man and said, “You realize that reindeer in their droppings produce methane gas – a further violation of EPA regulations – and are one of the  contributing factors to the melting of the polar ice caps.  On these EPA charges alone you have a lot of explaining to do.  I hope you have a good lawyer.”

“Last but not least, it’s our understanding that you make your delivery of these toys by hitching the reindeer to your sleigh, flying around the world.  However, the FAA has no record of your ever having filed a flight plan with them.  Do you realize how you are endangering the public safety by conducting unauthorized flights, potentially compromising the well-ordered routes which licensed airlines fly?”

“Well, you know I’ve been doing this for decades – in fact long before there were airplanes.  And in all that time there’s never been an accident – not one.”

“Mr. Claus.  You’ve been very lucky – but you, sir are an accident waiting to happen.  Get your coat and come with us.”

And they took Santa Claus away – in handcuffs.  And in their hearts they knew they had done the right thing – making the world safer for bureaucracy.

NATIVITY

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to all!

CHRISTMAS CONTROVERSY

Perhaps you’ve heard about various communities which have determined that Christmas displays in public places are not acceptable.  Some of the impetus for these decisions has come from atheist groups who are offended and cite the fact that the Constitution does not allow for government to establish any religion.  They equate the displays as equivalent to violating this provision of our governing document.

Personally, I’ve never felt offended when I’ve seen public displays of Menorahs.  I do have a lot of Jewish friends and I think that their Holiday is a wonderful one, signifying the indomitable nature of the human spirit.  And my Jewish friends have never told me that they object to seeing Nativity scenes.  If they were offended they certainly never aired that opinion.  Nor would I be offended if I were to see a display advocating atheism, such as the recent display that was put up in Times Square.

It shouldn’t surprise us that there have been local protests aimed at individual homeowners who have put up extensive Christmas lighting displays and portray other aspects of the Holy Day.  Some of those are, in my opinion, a bit over the top and garish.  And if I lived next door I might have thought that a little less might have been more artistic.  But knowing myself, I would have lived with it and kept my tongue.

The Christmas season will soon be over for another year, the decorations will be stored away and we can put this conversation back in the closet.  No – wait, I misspoke.  You see Christmas is not a seasonal event – it’s a Forever event – at least according to the United States Postal Service.

This year the USPS printed a new forever stamp – a Christmas stamp.

582004-01-main-695x900[1]

Following is the USPS’ description of this philatelic issue, taken directly from its website:

The Holy Family stamp, first issued in 2012, celebrates Christmas with a scene from the Nativity story that reminds us of the joys of the season: family, togetherness, and the birth of the baby Jesus. It continues the U.S. Postal Service’s tradition of issuing beautiful and timeless Christmas stamps and will be a treasured addition to cards and letters sent during this season of goodwill and sharing.
Working together, art director William J. Gicker, designer Greg Breeding, and artist Nancy Stahl created an evocative image of the Holy Family. The stamp illustration shows Joseph leading a donkey that carries Mary and Jesus, guided by a star shining in the twilight of a desert sky.
The Holy Family stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.

While it is hardly part of my agenda to offer suggestions which further undermine the religious celebration of Christmas, it seems to me that if these people are so offended at viewing Christmas that way, they ought to be in front of Post Offices all over the country protesting the issuance of stamps such as these.  And when they finish their morning activities, they can march to our Public Libraries, demanding that they remove all copies of the Bible on hand and throw them into the fire that they’ve built outside the front door.

HOT COCOA AND SANTA CLAUS

In our era of global warming it may seem odd that the country has just experienced one of the coldest early December’s on record.  Fortunately, Las Vegas escaped the torturous weather that the Midwest and East Coast have been experiencing.  But still, when you’re just coming off 110 plus degree weather a drop to the 20’s invokes a mental need to stay warm.  And for me that means making some hot cocoa.

As I was about to take a sip it suddenly struck me.  There may be truth in wine – but in cocoa there is political correctness.  I mean consider, a blending of white milk and chocolate cocoa.  But then I realized that there was something missing.  Cocoa didn’t reflect our Asian citizens – so I went to the cupboard and pulled the yellow food coloring and added a few drops.  But then I realized our Native American citizens had been left out of the mix – so I added some red food coloring.  And then, just in case there are aliens living among us I added a few drops of green food coloring. 

Fortunately, food coloring does not affect the taste of food – however, the result of this politically correct doctoring resulted in a beverage that looked sort of off purple and not particularly enticing.  But I hate to waste food so I forced myself to drink it and pretended I was enjoying it.

As a child I remember my introduction to cocoa.  Mom had taken me to Macy’s to get a photograph with Santa Claus.  There were lots of us little tykes in line, waiting our turn to ask Santa to grant our Christmas present wish.  Santa encouraged each of us to climb up on his lap and whisper our request in his ear.  And then he would signify his understanding with a hearty, “Ho, Ho, Ho.”  We all loved Santa.  He was white – but not all of us kids were.  Then he would give each of us a hug and would help us back on our feet.  It was a wonderful childhood memory.  When we got home, Grandma had a nice steamy cup of cocoa waiting for us.

Perhaps it’s a slow news week – but I noticed that Aisha Harris, a black female guest who works for “Slate” opined on MSNBC that having a white Santa Claus is an expression of racism.  The obvious absurdity of this probably needs no elucidation from this writer.  Ms. Harris is mistaken in her assertions – simply because having a white Santa is not racist – it is sexist. 

Consider that of Fortune 500 companies, only 4% of the CEO’s are female.  Apparently that same misogyny exists at the North Pole in the not-so-hallowed halls of Santa, Inc.  But here comes karma.  If U. S. regulations don’t put Santa out of business, Ms. Harris’ profound belief in global warming, should it come to pass, will certainly accomplish the job.

Fortunately, in a few weeks we will re-consign Santa and his entourage back to the recesses of our minds for another year.  Hopefully that will enable Ms. Harris to turn her attention to resolving other problems which don’t really exist.  And to help her out, I’m sending her my special politically correct recipe for hot cocoa.

I hope she enjoys it.

THE CHALLENGES OF A MODERN CHRISTMAS

In our small apartment in New York there was very little room for extraneous things like Christmas trees – but somehow we managed to have one every year.  It was certainly nothing like the mammoth that appeared in Rockefeller Center, but it was fresh and new and smelled piney.

Mom had embroidered a beautiful tree skirt replete with cherubs and Wise Men and candles and there were several boxes which I presumed contained the gifts that the Magi had brought to the baby Jesus.  In addition to being decorative it was very functional.  It collected the pine needles which began dropping from the tree due to the low humidity in the apartment.

Of course, one of the great traditions was trimming the tree.  We had a small supply of ornaments which had been used for years.  And then there were some wonderful lights.  My favorite were the ones that contained oil and which  bubbled when the contents had been heated by the electric current.  They were probably dangerous and have no doubt been outlawed by some government agency in the interest of the public good.

The best part of our tree’s decorations were the Christmas cards which were strung with red or green yarn and placed strategically to fill in the gaps where there were no ornaments or lights.  There were a lot of cards as people seemed to enjoy sending them just as much as we enjoyed receiving them.  And the cards were beautiful and mostly religious in their theme.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the number of cards I have received has declined substantially.  I don’t think that this is attributable either to the demise of some of those who included me on their Christmas card list or that I’ve managed to irritate a lot of people.  No, I still get a lot of cards – but most of them are sent electronically and reside on my computer.  Most of these contain the ever so banal wish, “Season’s Greetings,” and a number are animated.  One person whose mental health I have questioned sent one last year that included fornicating reindeer.  Well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

So as I looked at my tree, I couldn’t help feel that it was a little bit bare – devoid of the usual Christmas cards that I had enjoyed in years past.  And I tried to find a way to correct this deficiency.  Then it occurred to me.  Since I had a lot of electronic cards on my hard drive, all I needed to do was pull the laptop from my office and put it on my tree.  So I removed the star from the top of the tree and attempted to replace it with the computer.  This created a few problems.

Even a small laptop is weighty and was more than the top branches could support, so I tried to prop it up by supporting it with several brooms.  While this worked, it didn’t have quite the aesthetic look I was trying to achieve.  Furthermore, I found that even with this makeshift solution it was very difficult for me to do any work on the laptop while standing on a stool.  The pressure of my fingers typing tended to cause the laptop to shift and I was concerned that the laptop and perhaps the tree itself might topple over.  So I came up with a solution to this conundrum.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has wonderful Christmas cards.  They always put together a collection of various images from years past and box them for sale.  And as it is close to the end of the season for Christmas cards, I was able to order four boxes of wonderful religious cards at a discount which I should be receiving next week.

What I intend to do is send myself one from each of the people who sent me an electronic card and write a wonderful and warm Christmas greeting from each of them.  When they’re delivered, I’ll pull out the needle and the yarn and place them on the tree, just as my family did when I was a child.

And now that I’ve resolved this challenge to the outward displays of Christmas, I can turn my attention back to its essence.  That there was a child born who changed the world and who gave us a message which each of us is expected to observe.  That we are to conduct our lives in Peace and with Love for our fellow men and women.

Tag Cloud