Mistletoe and Wine – Divine Reminders

There have been so many well-meant reminders at this time each year that we should put Christ back into Christmas” that I found myself gradually foregoing many traditions and ‘secular’ activities that used to make Christmas so special.

Somehow, I had come to believe that the Christmas revelry, the fun, the shopping, painting of the house, putting up the decorations, baking etc. were distractions from the ‘spirituality’ of the Saviour’s birth.  So I gradually dropped these, tried to focus on Christ, and felt many a Christmas go by without any real celebration or joy.  Admittedly, my mum’s transition to eternal life two years ago was part of it, but truth be told, we had become quite jaded about Christmas celebrations even before that.

Last week, a friend in LA was chatting to me on her preparations: decorations were up and she had made a feast of traditional sweets to share with her non-Sri Lankan neighbours.  Someone else had made a beautiful gingerbread house. It was a joy to just look at the intricate work of art and love. My Buddhist neighbour had his Christmas tree lights twinkling last week. When I went into Colombo to collect my reading glasses, I found the streets crowded with people shopping, meeting, eating, just being happy.

The world had moved into Christmas.   

The religious minded say it is the “secularization” of Christmas:   That the shopping feasting, and partying is not the ‘true spirit of Christmas’ – but it did make wonder about the adage “putting Christ back into Christmas”.   

For one, much as you may try, you cannot take Christ out of the word Christmas which at least by its very definition has Christ in it.   

It struck me that it does not behoove us to stop the world from enjoying Christmas – each in their own way.  The very fact that the Christmas season brings joy, gladness, hope, exultancy to many should be for us Christians a source of greatest happiness and joy ourselves – for this is the reason the Saviour came – to set humanity free.

So if a weary world, burdened for eleven months of the year,  takes delight in celebrating Christmas with merriment and secular diversions, I think we ought to give thanks that even in some unconscious way Christmas becomes a time of greatest joy in the world. St. Ireneaus said “Man fully alive is the glory of God.” Do we really truly want to change that joy and happiness that is associated with Christmas?

On another deeper level, through the incarnation, God permeated all aspects of life on earth.  The mystics call it the sacralization of the mundane. There is nothing and nowhere that Christ is not present – whether it be in our joys and sorrows, in the saint or in the sinner. Our Catechism teaches that God is every-where so we surely have to believe this includes the shops, streets, parties, games that are part of human activities.   

I venture to say that mistletoe and wine, and all it stands for thus become sacred celebrations of the divine birth that brought such joy to the earth.  

So whilst recognizing the irrelevance of attempts to put Christ into Christmas amongst these supposedly ‘worldly’ activities, let us on the other hand, help those deprived of the same worldly joy to enjoy some of this abundance of joy. The lonely, the homeless, and abandoned; those confined to bed, to prisons, to streets; those struggling to make ends meet: Let us bring them too into the wealth and joyous celebrations of humanity.  

I light a Candle for you Sri Lanka

I light a candle for you Sri Lanka, I light a candle for you,

That your suffering may soon end.

I light a candle for you … no I light four 

For the lives that fell yesterday;

fell that you may arise out of this darkness – brought on by leaders who betrayed you.

Four felled by live ammunition – not rubber bullets, the international norm to quell voices raised too loud against oppressive governments. 

I light a candle for their four families … for whom they fought to put food on the table, that their sons may not have been murdered in vain. 

I light a candle for you Sri Lanka,  for everyone of those protesting at Galle Face.

May their light burn bright showing us a way out of the darkness;

May their lights never be dimmed by fear or fatigue, 

Or be snuffed out by winds of power as these four were.

I light a candle for all those joining them around the country .. indeed around  the world, making their voices heard,   

crying out for salvation for YOU  Sri Lanka, our beloved mother land.

I light a candle for you Sri Lanka; 6.2 million candles I light now

With the hope that all those (6.2m) who were duped into darkness and drew you down to these depths 

Will join the cry to draw you back into the light.

359 candles too are burning for you Sri Lanka; Their light has never died or dimmed.

Three long years they’ve burned bright; Waiting for justice to be served.

I light a candle in prayer dear martyrs of the Easter bombings,

in prayer that your vigil is over, and that you can soon rest in peace with your Creator. 

I pray that ‘soon’ is now.

That NOW is the hour Sri Lanka; That NOW is the time.

Mr President – Your time has come; Your hour is here.

It can go down in history as your finest hour!

Walk out of the dark corridors of power you’ve buried yourself in. 

Walk out into the light of a new day for a new Sri Lanka with a new leader. 

Walk out Mr President. 

Walk out now.

Save your soul. 

Save this nation.

These thoughts were written the day after the first protest at the President’s personal residence in Mirihana pn 31st March, 2022.

The youth of the nation continued their peaceful protest that has become a beacon to the world of how to change things peacefully. The President did not go home as requested. He greedily and unrelentingly held on to power. The peaceful protest ‘Aragala’ continued with a single slogan #GoHomeGota. The brilliance, the humour, the unparalled organisation and setting up of a ‘village’ ‘Gotagogama at the site of the protests is a story for the history books as each milestone was reached.

9th May the first of the Rajapaksa brothers – Basil, Finance Minister handed his resignation. 9th June, other brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down after inciting mayhem and violence against the protesters. 9th July, the President fled into hiding and the protesters -the Aragala, took over his official residence, the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s official residence. Two days later the President secretly crept out of the country and submitted his resignation via mail from overseas.

All honour and kudos to the ‘Aragala’ (peaceful protesters) who led the way with their single slogan #GoHomeGota . The nation owes them a debt of gratitude that is hard to quantify or repay.

Protests outside the Presidents private Residence 31st March 2022

Tears at Christmas

When the joy and laughter around you, makes you sad and brings you to tears;  When the Christmas carols only serve to still the voice inside you to mourning;  when the merry making and visits of friends make you feel a deep vacuum inside and all around you because something, someone is not in the picture,  What do you do then,  when the tears flow at Christmas? 

The tree is decorated, the adornments are up but the most important, precious adornments of the house are not.  The loss of your loved ones and pets is a physical pain. 

Last year, we ‘survived’ Christmas because the externals were scaled down due to Covid so there were less ‘reminders’ of family time.  This year, “Christmas” has returned, Covid or no Covid, and the traditions and the ‘joys’ of Christmas are back in almost full measure.  But the joy in your heart has been replaced by grief in almost full measure. So, what do you do when tears flow at Christmas?

There is a spiritual dilemma here, for being a Catholic, I know I should be rejoicing at the birth of the Saviour, finding joy in the traditions that have come to epitomize Christmas, and even more than that, experiencing joy in the fundamental message of Christmas – Rejoice and be glad for this day is born to you the Saviour of the World. 

It just seems so very hard to rejoice and be glad … and that has been troubling me. Where is my faith? Where is my hope? Where is my belief in the Good News?

That last question made me think.  What is the Good News?

The good news is not just Christmas trees and gifts, mistletoe and wine, logs on the fire as carolers sing.  The good news is not the stockings that Santa fills with a ‘Ho Ho Ho’ to cheer you .   Nor is it the table laden with good foods that fill you up.  All these are good and fine, but not really the “Good News” of Christmas.

The “Good News” of Christmas was the first words the Babe in the manger uttered as a grown man as he opened the temple scroll :

“  …I have come to bring the good news to the poor,

to heal the brokenhearted,

to preach deliverance to the captives,

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty them that are bruised…” Luke 4.18.

I had read this verse so many times before. I love the image of Jesus picking up the scroll in the temple in his first public appearance – but I was never broken-hearted before and the good news passed over my head. 

Today the words took on a new meaning, reminding me also of the many I know who are grieving this Christmas. A friend in the UK who held his wife in his arms struggling to give her oral resuscitation as the breath quietly left her body.  A classmate whose husband had an unexpected fatal heart attack. A friend in Australia who still grieves for the brother, husband and parents who left many years ago leaving a void she has not been able to fill.  Young parents who’s little one joined the angels in heaven a week ago after more than a year of hope and prayers that he would survive an accident.  The community grieves with them and thousands of others whose loved ones left this year – or in recent times – victims to Covid, accidents, violence, bomb blasts or just the natural cycle of life.  

Death where is thy stingDeep in my heart, I reply.  But a deeper voice inside me convicts me.  The sting of death is deep only in a heart without hope and without faith.  And without gratitude for what you had.     

So I remind myself that the pain may be there but hope and faith – and Love – will see me through. The “Good News” is that I don’t have to force myself to fill the vacuum. I can feel broken-hearted and empty. I can grieve and be bruised in my grief … knowing that there is a promise – many promises – and that I can lean on Him, the Christ Child.  I can go direct to Him whose words ring true for all time – for this is the reason he came.

Come to me all those who are weary and heavy burdened

Come to me … I will give you the answer, I will give you rest.  I will give you peace; I will set you free from all the troubles that oppress you.    

Yet you refuse to come to me to have life John 5.40

And thus this Christmas I invite all who are sad, whose tears are flowing to strive to remember that the Lord is coming.  Go out to meet Him.  He is the Prince of peace and we can find peace through our pain only if we lean on Him and let Him fill the empty void in our hearts.  

A blessed and holy Christmas to you all.

Crying for Justice

I penned the reflection SRI  LANKA I CRY FOR YOU on this blog in April 2019 just after the Easter carnage in my land.  Six bombs went off simultaneously at 6 different locations at 8.35 am on Easter Sunday 2019  – 2 in national Catholic Shrines,  1 in Zion Church, 2 in leading five star hotels and one in a guest house. 
In fact, the cry I referred to in my reflection penned in the first few days, turned to weeping when we found out that the government had received prior notice of the impending attacks,  and for reasons best known to them and for  political expediency, failed to protect our people.
The then President in fact, ‘conveniently’ left the country on ‘holiday’ two days before the attack.  Two days after the attack, the present President staked his claim to lead the country and contested the next elections. They both belong to the same political party. 
Questions abound … why did not the Government and the forces respond with appropriate action on the intelligence received from the Indian and US Intelligence services, which even named Zahran (who died in the attack) as the leader of the suicide mission?   
Despite report after report of Presidential committees and commissions interviewing hundreds of persons and ‘naming names’  of those whose negligence – wilful, intended or otherwise – resulted in the murder of 259 persons and injury to over 500,   NO JUSTICE HAS AS YET BEEN SERVED. 
POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY!  Divide and rule politics? Fear mongering politics?    
On this day when we commemorate the second anniversary of the Easter carnage in our land,   coincidentally a significant day for the cause of justice with the landmark ruling in George Floyd’s murder when JUSTICE WAS FINALLY SERVED IN THE USA  – Thank you Lord  –   may the cries of the dead, the wounded, the living bereaved, of the Easter Carnage in Sri Lanka be heard by the Risen Christ, and justice be served without delay on those who orchestrated this murder. 
 Sri Lanka I cry for you  =  A reflection on the Easter Bombings

Betrayed by more than a kiss


Betrayed   … shouts out from the roofs, the hill tops and the vales today.

Betrayed with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver.  Open, upfront  pre-meditated,  caving into confusion.  Misled into believing it was justified. .  Then despair.  30 pieces betrayal price and then burial price. Hakeldama – field of blood.

Betrayed – let’s not stick around to see what happens to our friend, Master.  Let’s flee even naked. Then in guilt and shame they meet again . Strength in numbers and strengthened in Spirit they go out. Followers of the Way … no more afraid even of their own crucifixion.

Betrayed – One stayed close but the coals were too hot:  ‘I know not the man’.  Fear confusion … an unplanned fall.  Then weeping, remorse and gathering of resolve.  Never again to fall. A solid rock.

Betrayed – self righteous arrogance, fearing a change in status quo points to a ‘blasphemer’.  Then smug satisfaction at having ‘saved’ the nation.  In reality having saved their positions.

Betrayed – a conscience niggles, this man is innocent.  Courage fails.  expediency prevails.  Washing of hands.  I won’t do it – do it yourself.  A good man surrenders to public opinion.  Silent.  He could have stopped it.

Betrayed – miracles, healing, words of wisdom and saving grace – yet no one springs to his defence,  gives witness to the truth. . Did they repent,  return to Him?  The Books are silent.

But  I have the benefit of HIS STORY –  of a Resurrection,  a Pentecost and a 2000+year old faith.   Despite this …. it continues ….

Betrayal  .day in day out, day in day out … by the choices I make.    Judas, Apostles, Peter, Priests, Pilate, Rabble Rousers, and ingratiate recipients of grace …  bits of all of them reflected in me. ..

(INot sure how this post reappeared in my drafts box when it was posted in 2018 – reposting it.)

Image Credit: http://truthbook.com/urantia-book/paper-183-the-betrayal-and-arrest-of-jesus

Lord, in the years that are left to me ….

I recently came across this reflective poem by “Unknown Author”  Curious, I googled and found it is attributed to Martha Snell Nicholson. who has written many beautiful poems on Christ and salvation.   Sharing this one which is my prayer too. 

 His Plan for Me
When I stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ
And He shows His plan for me,
The plan of my life as it might have been
Had He had His way – and I see
How I blocked Him here, and checked Him there,
And I would not yield my will,
Will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes,
Grief though He loves me still?
Would He have me rich and I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing,
Down the paths I cannot retrace.
Lord, of the years that are left to me
I give them to Thy hand
Take me and break me and mould me,
To the pattern that Thou hast planned!
Amen !!

Are you intimidated by another ?

“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man.”  
Leonard Ravenhill

Reminds me of the bible character David  –  a young shepherd boy who went forward to slay the mighty Philistine giant Goliath when everyone else was too afraid to combat him. 

David refused all armour offered by the King and went forward armed with just a sling. 

The rest as they say is history. 

David and Goliath

Source: https://letterpile.com/poetry/David-and-Goliath

  Those who walk in the shadow of the Almighty God need fear no man.

Forcing the Christmas spirit

Christmas – the most joyous time of the year. There has always been an ‘ air and feel’ of Christmas … a sort of an expectancy. Everyone rushing around, occupying themselves mostly with externals … but deep down .. that feeling of waiting, yearning for the 24th night… that most special night in history when God became man; nay – God became a naked little babe in a cattle shed, born ‘illegitimately’ by worldly standards to a young Jewish girl – with her betrothed husband at her side.

With such a beautiful event to celebrate, Christmas has always been very special. Granted, as kids, it was mostly the joy of new clothes and of gifts galore – first from Santa, then our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents. We would return home on Christmas night with the car trunk laden with our gifts.

As we grew older, Christmas became more than gifts and Santa. Carol services, decorating, baking, inviting friends over – all became part of the Christmas traditions. As we matured, these were replaced by activities more closely linked to spiritual traditions – advent wreaths, church decorations, Sunday School Nativity plays, charity project church fellowship and of course through all of these family family family!! Family was there in the thick of it – especially my Mum and twin sister .👩‍👧‍👧

And now … Mum is not with us this Christmas. She moved on in June to be in the embrace of her Maker … leaving us with a huge vacuum. A vacuum that I am finding hard to fill, to face, to accept.

It was a bit too much to face, so without discussion, since Queen Bee’s name would not be there, we automatically dropped the Kris Kindle ritual this year. We dropped a lot of other things too including Advent wreath, decorations and carols. Covid too did its part to put, for us at least, a welcome spoke in festivities.

Still, the spirit of Christmas past comes back – like it did to Scrooge – but for me the memories hurt. Fun, laughter that we shared; midnight mass on the same pew, breakfast together, the extra touches Mum put on the table, the family dinner and the joy and mystery of distributing Kris Kindle … somehow everyone seemed to draw an extra name for Nans!! And no one knew how that happened. No, we knew. everyone wanted to give Nans something. After Dad died, she became the sole Elder, the Queen Bee whom all the grand children migrated to with their woes and troubles. She was their confidante, advisor and friend.

And now Christmas is upon us. The night we used to wait for with bated breath is almost here. I really cannot believe it is Wednesday the 23rd!!! Where is my Christmas spirit ?

At the urging of a childhood friend Felicia (who went through a similar grief a few years ago just before Christmas) I forced myself to put up a tree on the 21st when the thought struck me that Mum will be with the heavenly choirs – and with Dad – proclaiming the Birth of our Lord. And she would want us to join in singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo. It is His birth we are celebrating.

So I forced myself to play some carols today. And as I forced myself to listen – and as the tears started .. . I started to pen my thoughts.

I am forcing myself to feel joy externally – to find joy in the traditions that have come to epitomise Christmas, and trying to find joy in the message of Christmas. Rejoice and be glad for this day is born to you the Saviour of the World. I do rejoice and am glad … but I am definitely not merry or joyful. And that was troubling me because I thought I ought to be.

But then I remembered that I do not have to put on a show for myself … to force the Spirit of Christmas for that Babe – for that same Babe came:

…”to bring the good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” Luke 4.18.

I had read that verse so many times before. I love the image of Jesus picking up the scroll in the temple in his first pubic appearance – but I was never broken-hearted before and that news passed over my head. Today that spoke to me. The Good News is that I don’t have to force myself to fill up the vacuum. I can feel broken-hearted and empty. I can grieve and be bruised in my grief … knowing that there is a promise and an answer. I have to wait in patience with the sure hope that the Christ Child will fill up this vacuum with His Love .. His mercy, and His compassion. He has promised us this.

So many people are broken-hearted this year having lost family to Covid as well as to age, and so many are separated from family at this time of family love.

May the blessings of this holy season fill all of us with His peace and love. … and may health return to the planet and its people. ☮️ 💟🙏