Christmas All Year Round

27 12 2009

When I was a Chaplain in Cabra Hall at Loyola University New Orleans, the students thought that I was lazy because my Christmas Tree was up all year round.  The decorations came in the form of beads that marked the particular season… Christmas was silver and red, Mardi Gras was green, gold and purple, Lent and Advent where some shade of purple and pink, Easter was white, and the rest was green.  When people would ask why I kept it up I would answer something like, “because today is Christmas to someone who is receiving assistance through volunteers, a listening ear, compassion.”

Having seen the transformation of New Orleans during the past 52 months of recovery since Hurricane Katrina, I have seen many faces – some sad, some angry, some tired, some inspired.  And every face has its own story…

Take, for example, a young lawyer who moved back to help her grandmother with her property.  She is tired, stretched thin, and burdened by the responsibility.  Or an almost retired gentleman who cannot afford to stop working due to the bills of his wife’s chemo treatment.  He is weathered and worn, yet still so hopeful and loving. Or perhaps the young girl who learned how to ride a bike for the first time with strangers who shared a bicycle and their time.  She is delighted and proud just as much as her mother is surprised and grateful.  There have been many people, who at the moment of encouragement, find relief, at the moment of assistance, find hope.

I leave my Christmas Tree up because Christmas is celebrated each and every day with each moment of progress we experience, with each volunteer group that is able to assist our residents with projects, with each old building recovered, with each new building plan approved.  Christmas is not just one day, it is everyday.

The gift of Christmas is truly the Gift of one another.  I have come to understand that fact evermore clearly since living and working in New Orleans.  The awe and wonder of Christ’s coming is mimicked in the awe and wonder of hope coming into our lives, our businesses, our families, our neighborhoods.

Hope, for us, also continues to come in the form of 27 committed athletes who prioritize a healthy challenge for the sake of awareness and responsibility.

As you celebrate this Christmas Season, let us be reminded, inspired, and encouraged by the words of Howard Thurman:

After Christmas Day

When the song of the Angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring Peace among brothers and sisters,

To make music in the heart.

Jocelyn A. Sideco, Spiritual Coach and Executive Director of Contemplatives in Action

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