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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 14: Santa Lucia

Today is Lucia Day in Sweden, December 13. These are the two Lucias that I display in my home. One is our "Lucy Lucia", a photograph of our former dog, Lucy. We sent that as a Christmas card one year. The other is one of our Carolers, the full collection which you will see later on. The celebration of Lucia is a big deal in Sweden with schools, churches and public organizations all having some kind of celebration or another. The story originates in Italy, with Lucia, a young woman who felt compelled to visit prisoners in their dark and dank cells. In order to carry more goods in her arms for the prisoners, she wore a crown of lights on her head to light the way. Eventually Lucia was martyred for her faith and good works towards those who were less desirable in society. The red sash around her waist signifies the blood that was shed at her death. Sweden has adopted this story and made it their own. The darkness of the Swedish winter lends itself well to the celebration. Here in Sweden, on December 13, the oldest daughter in the family arises early in the morning and delivers freshly brewed coffee and Lucia buns, soft pastries infused with saffron, to all of the members of the family. The public celebrations include beautiful Swedish Christmas music often sung by talented children's choirs with hundreds of living candles illuminating the scene. It is truly a stunning and beautiful celebration, especially when you see it live for the first time.
The story has no real roots in a life of faith, but the parallels are not hard to draw. We are called to reflect the light that is Christ in our own lives and how much better to do that than to serve those who live on the margins of our society...not only the prisoners, but also the poor, the lost, the hungry. The light of Christ can easily be shone to the immigrants and refugees who surround us in our daily lives, mainly through serving us by cleaning up after us. Let us remember that these are folks who have left their homelands most often for difficult and complex reasons and are seeking to find their way in an often hostile foreign environment. Instead of being angry that they don't speak your language perfectly or questioning whether or not they should be present among us, why not give them a break, show some kindness and offer them patience. What better way for the light of Christ to shine brightly towards them.