Monday, January 06, 2014

The Work of Christmas Begins by Dr. Howard Thurman

The Work of Christmas Begins

     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,
     To make music in the heart.

Dr. Howard Thurman was an influential author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Theology and the chapels at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades, wrote 20 books, and in 1944 helped found the first racially integrated, multicultural church in the United States.

Every Kid Knows Santa's Color

Every Kid knows Santa’s Color 

By Six year old “Little Leo”
as told to
               Richard G. Malloy, S.J. 
Kevin famously said in Home Alone II, “You can mess with a lot of things, but you can’t mess with kids on Christmas.”  So when an anchor at Fox News (whatever that is), said “Santa is White,” I thought, like Kevin, “I don’t think so.”  She should have asked a six year old like me, Leo. Well, everyone calls me Little Leo.
Look, all us kids know Santa’s color.  It’s Candy Cane.  Red cheeks?  On ruddy skin, mostly covered in beard?  You know, Santa, chief of the elves and lives in the magical village somewhere at the North Pole.  My Dad says Mrs. Claus is always telling him what to do.  If he goes outside, Santa’s color is mostly blue, because it’s a gazillion degrees below zero up there.  If the elves hit the eggnog too hard and don’t get the toys made on schedule, Santa’s facial color is mostly red.  For a while he was brown because he loves the Cleveland football team, and then purple when he jumped on the Baltimore wagon for their miracle run last year.  But mostly he’s green because he’s originally from Philadelphia and is really an Eagles fan.  So, Yo Santa, when we gettin’ a Super Bowl championship in Philly? 
You get it?  He’s Santa.  He can be any color he wants.
As Kevin showed in the first Home Alone, we kids know how it works.  There’s a lot of guys dressed up in Santa suits out there.  They can be any kind of people, and I’ve seen them all: fat, skinny, old, young, smart (those ones never tell you you’re getting what you ask for.  They say they’ll check with your parents first) and some are a few light bulbs short of a fully decorated tree (they promise you’ll get everything you ask for, but never deliver).  I go to lots of toy stores, especially before Christmas.  You see, each of these Santas down here listen to kids and then get the messages back to the real Santa up at the North Pole. 
The real Santa, he’s the guy like Tim Allen in The Santa ClausE, who puts on the real red suit and turns into the candy cane colored, humungous, guy who gives toys to all the good little girls and boys.  Lucky for me, Santa’s an easy grader.  What ethnicity or color is he?  Who cares!  We kids just want toys.  And my Mom says we have to share some of our toys with other kids, so we always take some gifts to the Salvation Army before Christmas.  And we’re happy that Santa’s such a Communist or Socialist (whatever those words mean.  My Dad told me to put them in).  We know that all the little kids get toys at Christmas.  How cool is that?  Wouldn’t it be great if real grownups thought like that?  All kids getting what they need, just ‘cause they’re kids!  Doesn’t matter what shape or size, country or color.  Santa serves all kids, all kinds, everywhere.
It would be a world like Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.  The George Baileys would get to make the ways the world ought to be.  The Mr. Potters would be watching Fox News all day and night, sitting there scowling and mad like the Grinch, unhappy because everyone in Whoville had a house with a few rooms and a bath.  No one living in Pottersville.  That would be great.  My Dad makes us watch that movie every Christmas Eve before we go to Midnight Mass at eight o’clock at our parish.  My big sister, she’s thirteen, she says the movie is boring, but she says everything is boring.  I love it when Clarence, and then George, jumps in the icy water and, at the end, when the angels get their wings.
At Mass, my Mom says we’ll hear about something our new Pope, Pope Francis, wrote, The Joy of the Gospel.  Dad says Fox News gets it wrong.  Fox says the Pope’s against capitalism (whatever that is).  Actually, the Pope is for everybody and love and peace and justice.  Fr. Rick, who is writing this all down for me, says I should tell the people what the Pope said.
“Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless.    I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, #2-3).
Joy!  Cool.  As Linus said, “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!”  And Christmas and Jesus and Santa are for everybody, anyone who ever lived.  It’s like birthday parties.  Everyone gets invited.  Bishop Harry Flynn learned that when he didn’t want to invite an African American girl to his sixth birthday party.  His Mom told him, “Fine.  But you don’t invite her, you don’t have a birthday party.”  
Bishop Flynn writes, “I still have a vivid memory of that birthday party and of my mother warmly greeting the young African American girl as she came up the sidewalk to attend the party. That single act made a very deep impression on me” (Flynn 2003).”  Duh! How dumb was that, not wanting to invite that little girl to his party.  Archbishop Flynn learned his lesson and now he teaches us:
“Racism takes many forms, but at its core it is a personal and social disorder rooted in the assumption that one race is superior to another.    I believe that two broad types of racism need to be recognized and resisted: individual and institutional. Individual racism is evident when a person adopts attitudes or takes actions that are based on the assumption of racial superiority. Such attitudes and actions violate the rights and dignity of other people because of race.  A second type of racism is institutional or structural. This type of racism exists where patterns of racial superiority are embedded in the systems and institutions of society. Such racism is less blatant and more complex, but it exists nonetheless. It is present wherever systems and institutions are created and maintained in such a way that they provide privilege or prejudice for one race over others. This type of racism can be seen, to varying degrees, in many of our social, economic, and political structures, including the structures of our Church.” (Flynn 2003)
Hey, it’s me again, Little Leo.  All I say is, it’s time to root out racism, in our hearts, our lives, and all the insti… insta… insti… That’s a big word….  Root it out in all the places it exists.  Most importantly, let’s take racism out of Christmas.
Oh, you ask what color I am?  I’m six. 

Flynn, Archbishop Harry.  2003.  “In God’s Image: Pastoral Letter on Racism.”  Archdiocese of St. Paul Minneapolis.