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Home | Tag Archives: christmas

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Guest Column: Embracing the True Spirit of the Holidays

This time of year brings to my mind so much goodness that I have been fortunate to observe and experience. Every day, a myriad of brand new discoveries, opportunities, and encounters abound at home, at work, or as we go about our daily business and routines.

Some discoveries, opportunities, and encounters are very tiny, and then there are others that leave us in awe. Still there are those are neither tiny nor daunting; they are simple, yet comforting, and help place a smile on our faces and maybe even bring a stir to our hearts.

Sometimes we are so focused on the not-so-good parts of our days to the point that all the goodness right before our eyes becomes “an invisibility” – not just to our eyes, but to our hearts, and to our minds, and even to our longing souls.

Everyone, no matter how insignificant and unimportant he or she may seem in our view of who does and does not have value and worth in our lives, is in reality extremely important, valuable,  and very worthwhile by virtue of their very existence and humanity.

In this time of year, we are reminded that things like position, possessions, titles, financial enjoyment, social attractiveness, and made-up images we project of ourselves do not define us in the least bit.

Perhaps, they have some importance on a limited peripheral level, but that’s all. What defines us, if we live the spirit of this special holiday season, is who we are in terms of our character, our integrity, our passion for good, our positive attitudes, and our goodwill towards others.

It is there that we find the genuine and most authentic greatness of individuals. Let us, therefore, live in the spirit of such holiday reality, for it is then that we can truly come to find and embrace the purity of what joy to the world really means.

We are all in this together. You and I should always be ready and willing to help our fellow men and women, when they occasionally trip and fall, by helping them to get back up and continue moving forward. One day someone trips, another day, another too will trip, and then it will be me.

This holiday season, let others know that they are important to us.  Abigail Van Buren once said that “The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” Hence, let us not be indifferent towards others we relate to, be it family, friends, co-workers, or even people we may meet on the street. Let’s seize the moment to make them feel the warmth of this holiday season every day of our lives.

Allow me, friends, to leave you with this final thought someone once shared with me: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Let’s live this holiday spirit today, tomorrow, and always!


Author – Oscar G. Gabaldon, Jr., CWLS, became a lawyer in May 1982. He has also served as a judge for the Child Protection Court for many years, and now works in the City Attorney’s Office as a Litigator and as the Police Legal Advisor.


Video+Story: Christmas, Connections and Caring

Christmas is a time of joy, hope, and as I learned from an amazing group of individuals, a time for connections and helping those in need. It’s also a good starting point for seeing everyone as an equal- immigrant, refugee, migrant worker, neighbor, stranger.

“May God be with everyone who is struggling,” is what Séamus, and ten-year-old boy volunteering at the Columban Mission Center, as he was preparing gifts for people coming from Annunciation House.

This year I’ve been on a quest for the meaning of Christmas. It seems there is not one pat answer or meaning to the season. Everyone I speak to has a different view, a different take on what Christmas it.

For Séamus it’s helping people in need. For Father Bob Mosher of the Columban Mission Center, it’s about connections.

“The Christmas story,” began Fr. Mosher, “I think is all about connections.”

As Fr. Mosher said, we are all familiar with the story of Jesus and His birth. How the angel announced to Mary that she would bear the Son of God. How she and Joseph fled, not returning until the time of the census. How, when the time was complete, Jesus was born in a

“Fundamentally,” said Father, “believers in Jesus Christ see this as a celebration of the connections that we are all called to make, and capable of making precisely because of what happened on that first Christmas.”

Father Mosher added, “when Jesus was born, we see God taking the initiative to reach out to humanity, to the human family, and to rescue it from that kind of longing and sadness, despair, and demands that everyone experiences in the human condition.”

Oh, and there are so many demands, and overwhelming despair at times.

We rush around this time of year, searching for that perfect gift in hopes of making someone smile. We are overwhelmed with friends and family who may have besieged us for the holidays.

Or, we may be suffering from depression like no other (see my story about holiday depression) It can be rough, this time of year. It’s even harder on those who are finding themselves in theUnited States, alone, searching for a place to be, a place to belong.

“Jesus is very particular,” said Fr. Mosher. “When He grows up to become an adult, He shows us exactly how to live.”

Fr. Mosher called Jesus the great connection maker. I think it’s true.

This past week, at the Columban Mission Center, a group of volunteers had gathered to prepare tables full of clothing, toys, and other gifts. This year, parents from Annunciation House will have visited the Mission to select gifts for their children that they otherwise would not have had.

Imagine what it must feel like: you’ve made your way to the United States to provide a better life for your family, your children, and you can’t give them even one simple gift for Christmas.

Imagine being in this country, as a migrant worker, a refugee, or even here illegally, worried about how you will face the holidays, much less every other day of the year. That’s why it’s important we make connections with these people who are our neighbors.

I know our current political administration doesn’t allow much wiggle room for individuals who are here illegally. Just try to look at the larger picture.

Many of the families being served by the Mission and Annunciation House have faced trauma, stress, fear, and discrimination. They have suffered for the sake of wanting a better life for their children. They are accosted by rude comments about their status, where they are from and just how they got here.

Many of us have forgotten where we come from. The United States has been peopled by individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. It’s that diversity, that heritage that makes us who we are.

There is Rebekah Bell, from Paso Christian Church, who was at the Mission to help sort items for the Christmas “store.” She, like everyone else, came because of the connections we have to everyone else.

“The shopping day,” says Rebekah of the gift selection at the Mission, “is an opportunity for guests of Annunciation House to connect with their kids and family by actually doing shopping for their family for Christmas.”

The selection of what guests could choose from was amazing. In very short order the items began to spread to fill tables in the main room, kitchen, and sitting room just outside the chapel.

“I think this is the heart of Christianity,” Rebekah says. “At Christmas, we get so focused on ‘hey, I bought this for my family, the people that I love.’ But the whole idea behind Christmas is God sent His Son to just the world in general.”

God sending His only begotten Son to the world is something I think many of us forget. I once attended a Bible study where the teacher asked the group a simple question. He asked if they would pray for a Muslim, a Hindu, or a person of another religious faith if asked to do so.

Not pray with them, or pray how they might pray in their tradition, but to simply pray for them. Several of the people at the study said they would.

The person leading this study said that was the wrong answer. He said that we should not pray for individuals of other faiths simply because they have a different view, a different concept of God. He went so far as saying that one should not pray for anyone outside of the shared denomination.

In my opinion, he missed the point of Christmas. He missed the point of being a Christian. It shouldn’t matter where someone is from, what their religion is, or their legal status within the United States. These are our neighbors, members of our community and the fabric of our lives.

Séamus, a boy who is only ten years old, seems to get this.

“I want to help people who are having bad stuff happen to them right now,” says Séamus. “If they are not helped they might die.”

He has a point. If someone doesn’t step in, help, guide, accompany our neighbors in the broader sense of the word, who will? That is what we are called to do by Christ in Matthew chapter 25. To paraphrase it He said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the poor, visit the
sick and imprisoned, we are doing this unto Him. Even though it’s not mentioned, I am certain He would have included the migrant, the refugee, the person whose legal status might be sketchy at best.

“May God be with everyone who is struggling,” is what Séamus said. Guess what, in my opinion, God put us here to help.

“The process of accompaniment, accompanying migrants and refugees is just so important,” says Emily, from New York, who is living at Annunciation House to volunteer full time.

“For me, it feels like a really good way to push back against most of what I disagree with,” Emily says. “That I see in our country particularly, is anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiment.”

She’s right. We, as a nation, have become so anti anything that is not considered homegrown, American, here legally. We seem to view immigrants and refugees as the enemy. We see them as an invading force that is here with an agenda to overthrow our way of life. It’s not true. It’s not. However, look at half the posts on Facebook. “They have come for our jobs, our families, Christmas,” and so on.

Emily made a point- the people who come to this country, seeing a better life for themselves, their families, they are not a nefarious group. They are not here to change anything. They are here to contribute to what we have. To strengthen us and our society.

Look around you. Look at the people you know. Look at the people in your neighborhood, where you shop, where you work or go to school. Take a good hard look because at least one person is a child of a migrant, a refugee, or someone who is simply here to make a better life for themselves.

Think about Jesus, His words, His actions. Think about what He would say to you during this Christmas season. Think what He would say about how we are beginning to treat people simply because they come from Mexico, South America, or other parts of the world.

Think how you would feel if you were in their shoes.

Maybe, just maybe you will seek out those connections, as Father Mosher speaks about in the above video, and you’ll appreciate Christmas just that much more.

Guest Column: Christmas Love, Hope and Faith

Almost everyone knows about Christmas. The tree, the presents, decorations all point to the special time that Christmas is.  Amidst all the hustle and bustle that surrounds the Christmas season, it is often acknowledged that it is a time of Love and Hope.  But we seldom appreciate the depth to which that is true.

In order to really understand Christmas, we need to understand the Fall in the Garden of Eden; to understand the Fall, we need to understand Who God is and who we.

Remember: Deus caritas est. God is love.  He is all-powerful all Good.  God desired to share His goodness with others and so He created all things, and out of nothing.  All of His creatures are made to reflect the Goodness of God, and to some He gave more and or different reflections of His Goodness than to other. Some creatures reflect God more perfectly.

For example, men and women reflect God more perfectly than plants and animals because men and women have intellect and free will, whereas plants and animals do not.  God gave us the faculties of knowing and freely willing to love Him back in return; for love is not real if it is not free and when we use these faculties as they are they are meant to be used, we reflect God even more perfectly by it.

We know God created us to share His Goodness, but we can be a little more specific.  The reason why we grace this earth is to know, love, and serve God in this life, to be happy with Him forever in the next life. It can come as a surprise to many who are weighed down by the hardships of life to hear, but it is absolutely true: We were created for happiness.

This happiness is to last forever with God if we choose Him, and the way we choose Him is by conforming ourselves to the Divine Will. God, the author of all life, knows the way we are supposed to be, the way we ‘function’ best, for our best good.  That is His will for us: that we act in the way that best conforms to our being, creation, nature, grace.

When God made the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, there had to be some way for them to show their love of God; this with things they should do, and others to avoid.  When Adam sinned, or transgressed the Will of God and their own spiritual good, they lost the original happiness and friendship with God they were created with.

Other consequences followed, like death entering the world, a darkening in of the intellect, a weakening of the will.  Our nature was wounded, not destroyed, but like a ship with a hole in it, would continue taking on water and eventually sink if left on its own.  The worst consequence, however, was that we rejected and offended Almighty God, Who is All good, All Loving, and deserving of all our love.

Through an abuse of our own free will, we separated ourselves from God.  What is more, is that the gap was so great, the offense of creature rejecting his own Creator so disproportionate, that nothing we could do on our own could ever repair the injury.  But God is still all good and all loving, so He promised that the devil, through whose influence our fall from grace came, would be defeated.  This was the the first prophecy of the coming of a Savior. Century upon century followed.

Continued prophecy and prophetic actions gave greater clarity and specificity to who the Christ would be and what He would do.  But as time continued, some began to doubt when or even if the Christ would come.  The Old Testament is full with a common contrast: God being faithful to His people, God’s people being unfaithful to Him.  Even during Christ Jesus’ own life, many questioned the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Christ Himself explains the reason for His coming:

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.  God sent His Son into the world, not to judge the world, but that the world might be saved by Him.”

So the one to come would not be like other men, but the Son of God, one-in-being with the Father.  The consequence of the Incarnation (the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity become man) is totally encompassing.  God entering time and space sanctifies it, elevates it,transforms it, unifies it.

The whole of creation, not exclusively the soul, is touched by the redemptive action of God. Our whole being isbrought into closer relation to the One Who made us, and He dignifies us by condescending to share in our human nature, while losing nothing of His Divine Nature.

The Good News of the Gospel is that God kept and keeps His promises; that He loves us and is willing to prove that love; that we who follow Christ will be won back by the merits of His Passion and death; that we will be saved from our sins and restored to His friendship.

All of this began about 2,000 years ago in the modest setting of a stable.

An ancient Latin text exuberantly sings:     O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, iacentem in praesepio! 

O great mystery, and wonderous sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger! In the quiet stillness of night, the Child-Redeemer was born. 

Humble shepherds receive angelic greetings and witness the paradox of the King of Kings surrounded with hay and beast.  Their reverence is deep, their joy, deeper. Those shepherds return to their fields rejoicing for they witness God’s Fulfillment in the flesh! The world is different now; the shepherds know it.

Christmas is not about buying things, trees, decorations, reindeer or snow- as nice as those things are.  Christmas is about something far deeper, far better.  It is about the Good, Faithful, Fatherly, Love of God, and His willingness to give all of Himself to rescue His wayward children, you and I. He is our hope. This is the great mystery and the great joy of Christmas


Author:  Fr. Kevin O’Neill, FSSP – Pastor, Immaculate Conception Church

No French Hens, Just Holiday Tips for 12 Days of Stress Relief and Joy

Each year when the seasons change, we start to think of the holidays and start to see sales and Black Friday ads. Around the time when toy commercials increase there is an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression as well.

For those whose fall experience is not just the crowds and ads, but greater stress and depression at this time of year, there are a few things that can be done to reduce stress and increase joy in the holiday season.

On the 1st Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the idea of sunlight as stress relief…

It stimulates the production of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that improves mood and lessens stress and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder is the result of the body receiving less sunlight during months when the days are shorter. So make sure you get some sun on your face; it may be sun and snow not sun and sand, but it will help improve your mood.

On the 2nd Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the idea of walking of worries…

The rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, and it decreases anxiety and improves sleep. When you need to de-stress, go for a walk: not only will it reduce stress, but it will make room for more cookies.

On the 3rd Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a “handy” little stress relief…

Applying firm pressure to the fleshy part of your hand between your thumb and your index finger for just 30 seconds can reduce stress and tension in your upper body. If you are feeling stressed this is a little trick which can be done at anytime and anywhere.

On the 4th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a reminder it is okay to say no as stress relief

Overdoing it goes along with the holidays. Make sure you do for yourself, not just everyone else, and give yourself the gift of saying “no” when you feel overwhelmed. Perfect is not a part of the holidays, or life. Perfect is impossible, accepting this will help you with allowing you to say no.

On the 5th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, medicine in the form of laughing…

Don’t ignore the things that bring you joy and make you laugh as a result of making things “perfect.” Embrace the small things and the big which bring you joy and make you laugh. It not only will improve your mood and reduce stress, laughter has been shown it improve immunity to colds as well. Just think, Santa is always laughing and saying “ho, ho, ho” and he has lived how long?

On the 6th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, reducing stress through old and new tradition making…

Often it is the old customs that bring us a sense of connection to the past. While this can lead to a feeling of comfort, it can also be a cause for stress and depression. Creating new traditions can create new memories and help to lessen the depression associated with the events or people connected to old traditions.

Re-creating old traditions so they have new meaning can help alleviate grief or depression. If your wife, grandma, or dad did something and they are gone, have the family come together and do those things. This new tradition embraces the past while also sharing the joy that was given by that member who is now gone.

On the 7th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, reducing stress by signing….

Listening to music has an amazing ability to reduce stress and relax your body. While you are making those cookies for your school or work party, wrapping gifts, or driving in the car, crank up the tunes you love and sing along.

When you sing you stimulate the vagus nerve that runs down the back of the sinus cavity and throat. When this nerve is stimulated it relaxes the body, naturally relieving the tension that stress can cause. Singing also release endorphins, just as laughing and smiling do.

On the 8th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, stress relief through time out just for me…

Time outs don’t have to be punishment, they can be a reward as well. Part of the holiday season is often constantly being on the go and around others. Taking a time out and letting yourself be alone can help you to relax and re-center yourself so that you are able to enjoy the season and the activities that are a part of it more.

On the 9th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a reminder to let others help me…

While much of the holidays is spent around family, often we try and do everything on our own and then come together. Let others help, sharing the load will allow no one person to feel overwhelmed while also allowing everyone to contribute to the beauty and specialness of the holiday.

On the 10th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a reminder to celebrate even if it’s just me…

When we are single or are far from family we often avoid the holidays or let them drag us down. While the traditional view of the holidays is something from a Norman Rockwell painting, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to celebrate if your painting is different.

When you are single, you are given a special gift or doing for yourself rather than for others, make sure you take advantage of that. If you have no one to buy gifts for buy one for yourself, if you are eating for one rather than 20, still enjoy a good meal (which means what you love without that weird casserole your aunt makes.)

On the 11th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the idea to volunteer, but be picky…

Volunteering your time at the holidays can be one of the most rewarding things and can create more feelings of gratitude than you can imagine. Doing small things with no expectation of receiving something back allows you to give truly from the heart and create joy for yourself and others.

It is important to not overextend yourself at the holidays by feeling obligated to help everyone who asks. These two things may seem unrelated, but in truth the joy created inwardly and outwardly from giving of yourself is something that can only exist if you are doing so by choice, feeling forced to give means it isn’t a gift and will create more stress than before.

On the 12th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, creating new things to make me happy…

Rather than doing everything the way you always have and only doing those things, try something new this holiday season. Breaking out of the routine or tradition will allow for release while also building new memories, and perhaps create a new tradition. Remember: what is now tradition was once just something new to try.

Author – Justin Nutt LSCSW, LAC – Special Contributor to the El Paso Herald-Post

Chapin High Engineering Students put Modern Touch on Winter Villages

These aren’t your grandma’s Christmas villages.

When the students at Chapin High School’s Principles of Engineering were asked to participate in the Winter Wonderland Engineering Contest as part of the 2016 Project Lead the Way, they strayed away from the cute Victorian villages we are used to seeing during the holidays.

Instead, the students in the class used their knowledge of engineering to create modern winter villages filled with lights, sound and motion … all while using recyclable materials.

“The project demonstrates an application of all the principles in engineering skills that the students have been working on this semester,” magnet coordinator Johanna Daniels-Sherman said.

news_2595_mThe contest challenged students to create a winter village incorporating sound, light and motion. Students first created a blueprint before setting to the task of making their designs come to life as a 3-D model.

Each of the six Principles of Engineering classes created its own village, which then were displayed for public view and scoring by judges at the Chapin Rotunda. More than 100 students worked together to make the project happen.

“It’s a little bit of a class competition and a little bit of individual performance,” Daniels-Sherman said. “We brought in members of the community to serve as judges, as well as some freshman and eight grade students interested in the program.”

Sophomore Christina Bowling’s class had a global take on the project that featured landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China.

“We picked our project to represent Christmas around the world,” Bowling said. “I really like the engineering program because you really get to work on a lot of computer programs and hands-on projects like this. Incorporating engineering with the holidays is a really great idea.

Student Kiara Morales’ class project featured a spinning tree, snowman and ice-skating rink, as well as a robotic snowplow.

“I think this is fun. It gives us an opportunity to learn more about engineering,” Morales said. “We are allowed to be a lot more creative with the project. “The competition is really friendly, and there is a lot of diversity with our different mechanisms.”

Students were judged on different criteria, including creativity and technical skills and application.

“The overall goal is to demonstrate an understanding of the principles to include circuitry, architecture, creativity and design,” Daniels-Sherman said. “There are extra credit opportunities for the winners — in addition to fame.”

The potential for extra credit and all the fame went to following classes:

— First place: Operation Christmas, third period
— Second place: Nightmare Before Christmas, seventh period
— Third place: Christmas Around the Small World, first period

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