Pursuit Of Peace

Raphael,

No argument there. We should pursue peace. How we go about, is the question.

I’m not in favour of any position that first and foremost states, that we don’t spend enough on foreign aid, we violate human rights, Christians are just as bad in using religion to kill, all white people are racists, this, that, and the other.

And I’m not in favour of a president who uses willful manipulation to draw outrageous parallels between Guantanamo bay and videotaped killings. Between events from a thousand years ago, to what happened yesterday.

His narrative is always, America is great, with ‘but we have done some bad things’. It should be reversed, It should be with the preface, ‘we have committed some grave mistakes, but it is still the greatest country in the world’. we have repented, made amends, and we’re in a far better place.

If we all acknowledge this is the best nation in the world to unpack our bags for a good long time, (not to visit on occasion, or veg out on a beach), then we can go somewhere with this discussion on how to pursue peace.

What is so intellectual or fashionable about bashing white folks, Christians, and Jews, but not others, and other religions?

After only a quick read, I do agree with a couple of stands in this article. One, I‘m against torture of any kind under any circumstances, period. It hurts my fiber to think that humans inflict pain on others on purpose. I have walked out of movies that show gratuitous violence, as my husband can attest; all the while acknowledging that it was the ‘water boarding’ of Khalid Sheik Mohammed that brought us the first tip, in 2005, on how to locate bin laden. I gloss over it by pretending it was just putting a little water on KSM’s head!

I’m also not for putting our men in harm’s way in the quagmire that is called Iraq.

so, how do we do it, you ask. I don’t know. The nation that put a man on the moon should be able to figure it out.

Anyway, you expected to hear from me, right?

I love America, not as in a, it’s-the-best-but-it-can-be-better, kind of way. The best, period. And I think the CIA and the navy SEALs are awesome, they’re doing their jobs, so i can sit in my warm house and use my ‘freedom to express’. And I’m glad all of you are my friends. Keep safe as your plow through the snow this weekend… mercy


Nicholson Syrian Girls’ High School

Right from its initial years, many women speakers have made a great impact on the Maramon Convention. Mrs. F.S. Nicholson and Miss. S.C. McKibbin conducted special meetings and Bible classes for women during the convention in 1905. They are remembered for their devoted service to the women of Travancore, particularly in the education field. They established the prestigious Nicholson Syrian Girls Higher Secondary School and Training Home in 1910 at Kattode, Tiruvalla, Kerala.

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MY SCHOOL! I am who I am, for better or for worse, in large part due to the vision of the two ladies mentioned in this article, one an affluent widow who wanted to use her inherited wealth for a cause she believed in deeply, namely girls’ education, and another one a single lady who shared a commitment to the same cause.

And our church, The Malankara Mar Thoma Church, was passionate enough in educating girls, to take up the project and ‘run with it’.

In my younger days, Nicholson Syrian Girls’ High School was one of the premier boarding schools for girls in Kerala. Thus my mother, my sister, one of my first cousins, and 2 of my aunts were all graduates of this great institution. I learned English grammar, using the ‘Wren and Martin’ Oxford grammar book in 1960. And if these two ladies spoke at the ‘Maramon’ convention, it was just all the more fitting of their personalities, and the innovative, and far-sighted character of our church. Thanks for the post, Das Athyal. The school was founded in 1910.

Anitha’s Step – One For The Ages

“All things are according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of His own purpose, based on what He had decided from the very beginning.” Ephesians 1:11

Happy 2015!

Last Sunday was an ordinary day at the Carmel Marthoma Church of Boston. except that it wasn’t.
It was an extra-ordinary day.
Although it happened to fittingly coincide with the final day of a long-planned and well-organized youth conference, that’s not what set it apart.

For the first time in the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church’s 180-year history, just as the service got under way, a twenty three-year-old young lady named Anitha Oommen, gingerly climbed up the short steps of the Carmel church’s madhbaha, to serve as a ‘deacon’, and swiftly rode into history books.

A job reserved only for the male members of the church has now suddenly become available to the other half, or as some would say, the ‘better half’, of the members.

Eve may have come after Adam, but now occupies equal space and place. The curtain did tear into two.

What may have been a ‘small step’ for the petite anitha, was a ‘giant leap’ for our church populace, the institution itself.

Close to some teen years younger than our youngest daughter, this youth leader with a ready smile my two shy granddaughters took an instant liking to, at a church summer bible school, Anitha has now become a trailblazer.

A woman ‘kapiyar’ in a Martooma palli!

Although never one who fit the definition of a ‘feminist’ by any stretch, and as one who is always happy to be in the care of my husband, the picture of ‘Anitha’s Step’, that was posted on Facebook by some well-wisher, surprised me with a lump in my throat.
I’m translating that ‘lumpy’ sentiment into prose.

This stratospherical achievement must have been the work of many, many peoples’ thoughts and imaginations, deliberate contemplations and deep-felt prayers, and perhaps some legwork, that spanned months or years, but even the Almighty would give the first credit to our Geevarghese mar Thoedosius thirumeni, the episcopa of the diocese of North America and Europe for the Marthoma church.

It took the divine confluence of a prophetic priest who made the leap, an eager, willing woman who took the step, and the members of a progressive parish that stepped up, to arrive at this momentous mile-marker. at the right time and the right place. all willing to answer ‘The Call’.

To call thirumeni a visionary is akin to saying, Neil Armstrong must have been a good engineering student at Purdue University. An understatement and stating the obvious. Our church, and particularly our diocese have been fortunate for the last 7 years to have thirumeni as our high priest. His superior intellect and his far-reaching vision were gifts to us.

And I’m so glad he ‘ran out of excuses’ (to quote thirumeni himself) for the persistent question of our youth, ‘why can’t girls do all the things in church, as the boys?’

Coming from arguably the most patriarchal culture in the world, it would’ve been easier instead for thirumeni, to hang onto the argument that it is our ‘tradition’ and therefore valid. and thirumeni admitted that was the only rationale he could offer in the end, and it wasn’t enough. Not for a body of Christ.

In addition to all else, during his sabbatical as our bishop, thirumeni opened my eyes to certain profound biblical truths:
this ‘pretend bible know-it-all’ learned for the first time:
– one, Jesus’ words on the cross ‘woman, behold your son; son, here’s your mother’ were the ‘seeding’ of the first ‘church’, an entity where people who are not blood-related taking care of each other as family.
– Two, Jesus’ words ‘I Am The Way’ is not meant to be just a doctrinal mandate or dogma by which to exclude others, but rather, what Jesus commanded us to do is to: ‘follow me, do and behave as I do, follow my exact way’.

thank you, thirumeni.

and anitha, you go girl! How did you end up with one of my favourite last names?!

America, How Do I love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways!

I don’t know many of you in Kunju’s email chain, nevertheless I’m writing blindly, with the hope that you won’t use your ‘right to free speech’ and yell at me.

I am ‘center right’ on fiscal matters, but am pro gun control. The second amendment hasn’t found a space in the Indian-American psyche, I believe. I don’t ever want to touch a gun, let alone think that we should all own guns to protect ourselves from intruders.

Having got that sentiment out of the way, let me answer this one question posed by Minoo Verghese, the writer of this email.

‘Wonder why most of you preferred to settle in the so called “country of the brave and the free” – I’m guessing not for the freedom but for the moolah, whatever.

Let me count the ways. Why I love America and why I have chosen to stay here for close to half a century.

-For the rights, ‘endowed on us by our creator’ and embedded into our constitution by one of the greatest men ever lived, Thomas Jefferson – my ‘rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. If I get killed by a mad gunman tomorrow, my ‘right to life’ will have ended. So can it have ended traversing through some of the chaotic roads in Ernakulam.

-For the ‘Judeo-Christian’ principle that God created us all in His image, one that is at the bedrock of the ‘western’ value that all ‘men’, the rich and the destitute, have the same worth in the eyes of God and man. This translates to: if I had the misfortune of ending up at the MGH (arguably the world’s most premier hospital) tomorrow, I don’t have to have my nephew’s brother-in-law’s wife working there to get a single doctor to even shoot a glance in my direction. if one lowly among us is kidnapped across enemy lines, the 82nd airborne is dispatched to the rescue.

-My privilege to get up every morning, indulge in a hot shower (without water allocation), put on a fresh set of ‘LLBean’ clothes, and drive my own little Toyota Camry, and park in our $7B company’s parking lot with ease. my bosses are Bill and Matt, not ‘sir’.

-My right to not to have to bribe my way through the bureaucracy to renew my driver’s license.

-For a good glass of Merlot, a juicy hamburger, ‘Lenox’ fine bone china, Red Sox in August, Super Bowl in February, and movies with Brad Pitt (‘Moneyball’ comes to mind, if you haven’t seen it, please do).

-Where I can argue with my ‘bleeding-heart’ daughters and my friends on the merits of fiscal prudence.

-For not having to squirrel away my entire life savings and my inheritance, to see my three daughters married.

-For being able to go on a safari in Kenya, and to see ‘Mama Mia’ on Broadway while taking in the ‘Big Apple’.

-To be living in the only country in the world where i can drink municipal tap water.

When we bash ‘white people’ for all the ills of the world, accusing them of aiming to forcefully conform the whole world to the ‘American or European way’, please bear in mind, that it’s the same race that gave us William Shakespeare and ‘Hamlet’, Michelangelo and the ‘Sistine Chapel’, Henry Ford and the world’s first assembly line, the Wrights brothers and the jet airplane, Penicillin and 8-lane freeways, JFK and the ‘moonshot’, the steam engine, the wheel, Steve jobs and ‘Apple’, and surely, the Magna Carta which is the very source of the noble idea of ‘one man to one vote’ (democracy). And who can dismiss ‘Google’?

Need I go on with the names? Like Galileo, Magellan and Copernicus? Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison?

In all fairness, would the ‘native’ Americans or this continent have been better off, if the ‘white man’ who gave us the ‘Declaration Of Independence’ and ‘The Bill Of Rights’, never set foot on its shores?

The ‘proof is in the pudding’, folks.
This country has been the last and the best hope of the earth, ever since a bunch of Anglo-Saxons settled in Jamestown, VA, and introduced the world to capitalism and free enterprise, and people all over the world haven’t stopped since, standing in ‘snake lines’, in scorching heat and blistering cold, in front of US consulates all over the globe, to get that coveted document called an American Visa. When the same happens in front of the Chinese, Indian, Ugandan and Lithuanian consulates, then we can claim they also have the same rights and opportunities, and desirable governments.

And to answer that first question by Minoo one further time, we may have all come here in pursuit of the two ‘Big Greens’, one with a picture of George Washington on it, and another in the size of a wallet card. but it’s undeniably the basic human rights that have pulled and kept us in.

Merry Christmas and a happy 2013, and
Peace On Earth..

Marco, the Mechanic

“God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you where ever you go.” Psalm 91:11

It was last Thursday. February 13, 2014. My Dad’s birthday. He would have turned 98.

Heavy snow was predicted for Massachusetts, starting at mid-afternoon. The forecasters were slightly off, and it started to come down as of noon. Around 1.00pm, Bill, the nicest boss I’ve ever had came up to me and said, ‘Merc, finish what you are doing and try to head home’. I did just that at 1.30pm.

By 2.00pm, I’m on route 128, that well-known thoroughfare that loops around Boston, and by now, the snow is at a steady clip of 2-3 inches per hour. Visibility was reduced to next to zero. I was rolling along at a snail’s pace in the right middle lane, and suddenly my wiper blades stopped working. And I mean, completely ceased.

The snow is now piling up on my car’s all sides, my slow ride became a crawl, I simply couldn’t see an inch ahead, and I finally came to a full stop, right in the middle of one of the busiest highways in the nation. Even the side windows were caked up with the wet slush. Every few seconds, I’d roll down the windows to see the sides of the road. Each time, the interior of my ‘Camry’ would get spilled and filled with a lot of the white powder.

At this point, the obvious alternative I had was to go to the right lane, then try to exit. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell if I was in the right lane and going into a ditch. Call me stupid, I decided the better option was to stay where I was. I put the hazard lights on, put the car into park.

I was afraid to get out and clean the blades. Again, I strategically decided getting rear-ended with me sitting in the car belted, was a slightly better option than getting hit standing on its side. You pick!

I used my cell (those who know me well, would know that this is a rarity) to call 911. The dispatcher said she’d send the state police and a tow truck but needed to know my location. I couldn’t tell her, because it was virtually impossible to see the highway signs. I said, ‘somewhere past Burlington and Bedford on 128 south’.

As I was sitting there panicked and slightly out of my element, a truck stopped by to ask if I needed help. I responded, that the police were on their way, thanked him much the same.

As minutes passed, however, there was no sign of either the police or the said tow truck.
I tried the defogger at full speed/low speed, hot and then cold, up then down, none made any impression on the stubborn wiper blades. They simply wouldn’t budge.

Then: after what seemed a very long time, another truck drove by, came to a full stop right next to me, on the driver side. Its passenger side window was rolled down. ‘The driver’ asked me what was wrong. I explained.

Then: he literally got out of his car, walked over to mine. (You have to imagine this scenario, of 2 vehicles at dead stops in the middle of 128 in a raging snow storm, to get a feel for the situation). This gentleman examined my car, the blades, and gave it a ‘good clean’, asked me to restart the engine and to turn on the wipers once again.
They were now working.

As soon as he touched my car, somehow I ‘felt’ he would ‘fix’ it, and I pleaded, ‘before you go, you have to give me your name and number’. He pretended not to hear me. I appealed to him again. At my repeated insistence, he said, ‘it’s Marco’, that’s all you need to know.’ he continued, ‘I’m a mechanic, that’s how I know these things.’
I thanked him profusely, he got back into his truck, waited until I had driven a good distance, and then off he went into the mushy mess.

Meanwhile, there was a flurry of phone calls going back and forth to my husband. His reaction to the whole thing will not go out in print here.

This past December during Advent, our Seena Kochama gave a devotional message about the appearance of ‘real angels’ in our every-day lives. Subsequently in January, Reverend James did a study on a similar topic. Both messages were referencing the ‘Annunciation to Mary’, as according to the Gospel of Luke. Both times, I listened with great interest.
In the latter gathering, our friends, Monachen and Lilly, gave a testimony about one of their encounters with an ‘angel’, about a man who spotted some car trouble they were having on a highway, guided and followed them into a parking lot at an exit, proceeded to repair whatever was ailing their car with the tools in his car, and when asked what they could ‘do for him’, answered ‘just follow Jesus, that’ll be enough’.
I remember sitting in that study session, wishing an angel of the Lord would appear to me.

I was overwhelmed by my circumstantial ‘angel’, enough I was narrating the story to Alex, my co-worker, whom I call ‘the best Christian I know’, (he really is), a non-church-goer at that. I asked Alex what I could ‘do for God’ for this ‘angel visit’. Alex said, ‘Nothing. Just thank Him from the bottom of your heart, He doesn’t need anything from you, He already has everything’.
And added, ‘but maybe you can say a prayer for Marco.’

So here goes.
Dear and all-powerful God! Please take care of Marco and his children forever, and then in eternity.
Thank you, Papaji. I guess your job is not done yet. I’m sure you know that.

This is my testimony for 2014.

From 09.11.01 To 05.01.11 – A 10-Year-Old Quest For Justice Of The Human Kind

The second attack was just as spectacular as the first one in scope and in audacity.

The first one happened on September 11 2001, in the world’s most gleaming city, ‘the city that never sleeps’.

The cosmic, strategic, and Devine influences placed the second one on May 1 2011, in a dusty military outpost in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The first one with 19 men in four, sleek, commercial American jetliners. (The twentieth man would be lost to a mundane and unspectacular detail, such as an overstayed or questionable U.S. visa).
The second, with 2 dozen, in four massive American military helicopters. Both symbols of America’s power and grandeur.

The first one, etched indelibly into our nation’s collective memory circuits so that the term, ‘nine eleven’ has become part of our lexicon.

The second one, not so much. It mostly just caused a huge shared sigh of relief.
The first one, on a brilliantly crisp autumn day, when the sky over New York was a jet blue and seemed endless, with nary a cloud.To New Yorkers that morning, sky was the limit.

The second one on a moonless spring night, that presented to the executors, the shortest window of opportunity. There wouldn’t be another one like it for another 28 days, they knew. Delaying it unduly further would be complicated with the approaching season of sandstorms this arid region is well-known for.

The first one made Manhattanites stop dead in their tracks, the roar of jet engines overhead – it felt to some as if it were right over their heads – the kind one hears only if one is on an airport tarmac. It made the startled New Yorkers – getting off the subways, on their way to pick up that routine morning java and perhaps a bagel or a yogurt, hurrying off to their work destinations – look up at the sky that seemed limitless just moments before.
The second one was eerily silent, with America’s ingenuity on brazen display, a mighty nation that commissioned some of its brightest to craft a chopper, in this case an ‘Apache’, which makes as it flies, only a soft swirling whir, one that would make it sound as though it were somewhere in the far distance and going away from the listener.

In both planning and execution, both, ‘9.11’ and ‘5.1’, were near ‘flawless’ missions, carried out by young men, who were convinced they were put on this earth if only to complete this one last assignment. One, to win one for their ‘God, Honour and Country’, the other one, in the name of Allah.
This is where the apparent resemblances end.

On the previous Friday, much of the planet woke up to bear witness – on televisions, ‘i-Phones’ and ‘YouTube’ – to the unfolding of a real-life fairy tale wedding in a far-away kingdom, of a dashing prince and his fair lady, a celebration of young love, a sparkling display of meticulous pageantry the British are famous for, and centuries-old traditions of what once was an empire ‘where the sun never set’.

At about the same time, a half a world away in miles, and worlds away in every other tangible measure, 24 men were preparing to take off, in four of the most advanced flying machines the world has ever seen, from an airfield in the desolate and unforgiving mountain terrains of another distant country, Afghanistan, a country with parts that have the look of the stone ages.

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In conjunction with the above events, the parallels are there in the historic and the pre-historic, for us to draw from.

The pilgrims who came to America’s shores almost four centuries ago, were akin to Abraham of Genesis of our Holy Book, who traveled from ‘Ur of Chaldees’ of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) to the ‘promised land’, in complete faith in, and obedience to, his God. Abraham was plucked from among his fellow desert-dwellers and brought to a place where he was commanded to worship a single God. Thus was the start of a monotheistic religion, world’s first.

In a similar spiritual way, the pilgrims arrived along the coastline of a new world, seeking to worship their one God in full freedom. America was their ‘promised land’. To them, ‘milk and honey’ were not just figurative enticements. They were real and bountiful. All of us who have stepped foot on these shores since, are inheritors of this promise. Deuteronomy 8:10, “You will have all you want to eat and you will give thanks to the Lord your God for the fertile land that He has given you”, may have been the pilgrims’ template for celebrating the first Thanksgiving.

So that same God was with ‘us’ on this treacherous mission. Or otherwise stated, ‘we’ were on God’s side.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a God, who gave these nomadic fathers of our faith, a ‘desert shield’.

A Yahweh, who saw the desperate tears of Moshe and Aharon on the banks of the Red Sea.

A God, who was with Joshua when the walls came down in Jericho.

That same God was with the navy SEAL Team 6.

He was in the ‘Apache’ and the ‘Black Hawk’ and on board the USS Carl Vinson.

He was with the interpreter who calmed, a couple of curious onlookers at the gate to the bin Laden compound – in Pashto – neighbours who became inquisitive as to why there was a mild hubbub on this otherwise sleepy street, in an ordinarily quiet town on a dull night.
He was with the scientist who did the rapid one-hour DNA finger-printing test on the world’s most wanted man, whom his foes hadn’t seen in years.
He was with the man who measured the height or the length of the dead man on the floor.

He was with the men who made sure the women and children in the building were dragged away to safety and from being a threat to the mission.

He was most positively with the single SEAL who came eye to eye with the planet’s most notorious criminal and in a swift second, had to decide on a course of action.

And God was with the president who said to his field commanders the previous Thursday morning, ‘it’s a go’, and retained his trademark cool exterior to an unsuspecting world, as he went off to inspect the damage caused by the latest hurricane in New Orleans, with his wife and daughters.
And God was undeniably with the other president who always said, ‘it’s a go’, whether ‘we bring justice to them or them to justice, justice will be done’, the one who sent marching orders to 30,000 courageous men and women and deployed them into harm’s way, in October of 2001, to avenge the slaughter of 3000 innocents.

It took an Obama to bring down an Osama and a Bush to set it all in motion. Yahweh speaking to Moshe from the bush that was burning, but not consumed?

 

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘do not be afraid of them. I have already given you the victory. Not one of them will be able to stand against you’.” Joshua 10:8

In the ‘Mahabharath’, the ancient Indian epic tale, that emerged from the Vedic era of the Indus Valley Civilization, the battle of ‘Kurukshethra’ has a substantial and central place.

The narrative goes, that there were 5 ‘Pandava’ brothers on one side and 100 ‘Kaurava’ brothers on the other. They were first cousins. Brother against brother. Most of us know who won that battle 4 millennia ago.

The Pandavas prevailed, because Sri Lord Krishna was on their side. The Lord was summoned, for his counsel, by Arjuna, the middle brother and the leader of the pack of brothers.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

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In the end, the 19 young men from ‘attack one’ didn’t win anything. They lost their lives.

However, the ‘empire struck back’. America rose to the occasion. We comforted, we gave blood, we went to funerals and memorials and we watched a lot of TV.

We rebuilt and we rose from the ashes like the phoenix. And we claimed, ‘we shall never forget’ and vowed, ‘never again’.

 GOD BLESS AMERICA!

The Reason For The Season’s Greetings

season’s greetings!
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I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite their heel. Genesis 3:15
 
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him ‘Immanuel.’ Isaiah 7:14
 
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
 
The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.” Micah 5:2
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But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. … The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:30-32; 35
 
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Luke 1:41-42
 
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 
 
While they were Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son. Luke 2:6-7

The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Savior was born; he is the Messiah, the Lord!. Luke 2:10-11 

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For God loved the whole world so much that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life. John 3:16
 
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“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending”, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Revelation 1:8
“Listen!” says Jesus. I am coming soon! I will bring my rewards with me, to give each one according to what he has done, I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13

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wishing you a christmas that is merry,
a season that holds wonders, 
and a new year that is the happiest yet…