May our Blessed Mother keep you as her own now and always. Your mother."

I have been told by complete strangers that I have "innocent eyes," so I guess my mom's prayer worked. I do feel close to Jesus, my birthday brother. Yes, I know He was probably actually born in April or May —let's face it, He's way too bold to be a stuffy, old Capricorn — but I like to think December 25 was chosen as His token birthday for a reason.

I like having a Christmas birthday. My mother again came through on that score: Her birthday is December 27, and it was always lumped in with Christmas, something she swore would never happen to me, and it hasn't. Christmas is in the morning; my birthday is in the afternoon, preferably right around 5:03 PM, my birth minute.

There is something to be said for the celebration of new life in the deepest depths of intractable winter. It's all about hope; and it's a fact — we can live without a lot of things, but we can't live without hope. Plenty of people suffer from , the lack of sunshine the winter serves up along with relentless cold and snow. Without the promise that spring will come again, we turn to ice (metaphorically) ourselves.

That's why we need Christmas. We need red and green to punctuate the white the surrounds us. We need the few plants that bloom at this time of year — poinsettia, holly, mistletoe — to remind us that all is not dead, nor sleeping.

We need a baby to be born in a manger to give us the strength to hold on till Easter, even if Easter brings that child-now-man's death. We need the star of Bethlehem to punctuate our own night skies with light.

So happy birthday to all of the Christmas babies, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

New Life

At the darkest hour,
life triumphs,
beating back despair
with irrepressible joy.
And the world rejoices
because they know:
One new life
makes all death

Thank You
for remembering
what it is
our hearts need,
and providing it
in the smallest of ways.

-Lori Strawn


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