Letter From New York 12 24 14 Free to celebrate Christmas…

It is Christmas Eve. To me, Christmas was all about Christmas Eve. It was the night when I was a child that my godparents and their brood arrived at the house and we opened presents, had a great dinner. They departed and then we opened the rest of our treasure trove of presents. And then, when I was old enough, we headed off to Midnight Mass at our parish church.

I’ve fond memories of those Christmases and so I always associate Christmas with Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, we opened what Santa had left us, which wasn’t much. I always knew the big presents came from my parents. It didn’t bother me that much when I found out Santa wasn’t real.

I’ve been up since early this morning, cooking and prepping. I’m having my friends Lionel and Pierre, Larry and Alicia. We’ll gather at six for cocktails and then dinner and then they will head off to their respective Christmas services while I clean up and prep for tomorrow as I am cooking Christmas Day, too. And I’m giving a cocktail party on Friday night. And then, whoosh, it will all be gone.

All day I’ve been in a good mood, listening to jazzy Christmas Carols and cooking pumpkin soup and prepping sweet potatoes. The ham is in and cooking away and there is a wonderful smell to the house as you come in. In a few minutes, Lionel and Pierre will arrive and we will exchange presents and then Pierre is off to sing at the Catholic Church. Later, they will both sing at the Episcopal Church.

Tomorrow, in the morning, young Nick and his partner, Beth, and their child, Alicia, will come over. It’s a bit like extended family and their presents are nestled beneath the tree and it will be exciting to watch the almost three-year-old Alicia open her gifts. She is into “Frozen” [what three year old is not this year?] so I got her a “Frozen” comforter for her bed as well as a stuffed animal that needs a home and someone to love it and an ornament for their tree with her name engraved on it. It’s fun to shop for a wide-eyed little girl. It’s really the only opportunity I have to do it.

It is a grey, rainy day and, actually, quite warm. The temperature scraped fifty degrees this afternoon. It wouldn’t have surprised me if this were the kind of weather Joseph and Mary might have trudged through on their way to obey the order of Caesar Augustus to be counted. I’m not sure what the weather is like in Bethlehem this time of year so I did what anyone does when they want an answer to a question. I googled it. In Bethlehem it is fifty-five degrees and clear.

So not that much different, except we’re having rain.

Thousands are gathered there tonight for Mass. In Rome, Pope Francis prepares to say his Midnight Mass after giving his Curia a scathing review this week and while he calls for attention to the thousands of Christians displaced because of ISIS.

Christians are now, once again, probably the most persecuted of religions. They, and other minorities have had to flee their homes, where they have lived since New Testament times, because of the campaigns waged on them by the Islamic State.

In Africa, Christians are living in fear of Boko Haram, which is setting about to create its own Islamic State in Nigeria.

It is strange to think of Christians as being persecuted but that’s the fact of the matter. In some parts of the world where they are a minority, they are being relentlessly pursued.

It is a sobering thought as I return to my festive cooking. Everything at dinner will need to go like clock work because all my guests need to be leaving for their Christmas celebrations. And they are free to do that.

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