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What can you say about Christmas?
Well, this being my 52nd Christmas, the first I can say is that it's the time when people "go back home". In Italy they say, "Natale con i tuoi; la Pasqua con chi vuoi". Loosely, it means, "Christmas is spent with your family; Easter Sunday, with whomever you want".
Reunion with the family on Christmas is yet a strong tradition in
Europe . To the Filipino migrant worker, the noche buena is always a dream, if not an obsession. Some are given to the extent of self-sacrifice during the whole year just to be able to come home for Christmas.
Christmas is a "going back home". I love it. Christmas is also a happy return to where and to whom I belong. For me, it's more than a recurrence of christmas rituals, steadfastness to tradition or a passion for soft memories. It is a reunion with those significant loved ones who have gone ahead of us. The family table glee, the Yuletide colors and carols, the values that the gospel and secular Christmas characters re-project, the joy of giving and expressing goodwill - they all shepherd me back "home". Christmas is a return to my God, who is so simple, but made complicated unfortunately, by my complicated past.
Christmas is being at home. It's a personal renewal and proclamation of the collective rootedness of my existence. That rootedness gives me strength... just as how much my late visit to my loved ones (Inay, Tatay, Kuya Ben, Kuya Fr. Joe) at the cemetery, some hours before my flight back to my mission, added me life. I want to believe that Pinoys start playing Christmas carols as early as October not so much to give way to their commercial bent as to haul off for strength, inspiration and for the authentic experience of Christmas.
Is that so? Well, do you find anything peculiar about Christmas?
The waiting and the preparation. It's peculiar that people are just so excited waiting and preparing for Christmas. In real life, waiting and preparing appears to be the most exacting and boring piece of experience. So, I see, Christmas teaches me patience. But patience here does not mean cynicism, indifference, apathy, inactivity and senseless surrender. Christian patience means active waiting, persevering hope, a constant prayer that the Lord of history bless my consecrated effort.
St. Augustine says that 's admonition to pray constantly does not only mean the bending of one's knees. Rather, it is an interior disposition of not ceasing to desire to do perseveringly the will of God while bearing in faith the pain of growth. St. Paul
For some of us it's easy to be impatient because we might have a different measure of time and a different criterion of victory. My impatience occurs when my time does not harmonize or cohere with His time; also, when I restrict time to my own perspective and measure victory mainly in the measure that it compensates my effort.
To spend an authentic Christmas do you think we should really do away with the christmas tree and with Santa Claus?
It was not only this year that many, from the pulpit and from the communications media, have strung together criticisms against commercialized Christmas. Many have come to suggest eliminating the christmas trees and poor Santa Claus. But, why should we jump in to the idea when it's just barking plainly at the wrong tree. In fact, Santa Claus is but just a symbol and an extension of a God whose joy is self-giving, incarnated as Jesus. Equally, the Christmas tree is but a leg up to heighten the thrill of the Christmas ambience that normally features the crib. So, rather than eliminate them I can "christianize" Christmas again just as what the Catholic Church did to the feast of the Roman pagans when the latter used to worship the Invincible Sun on the first day that daylight started to be longer than night time.
Is it true that Christmas is just for kids and for the rich?
On the contrary it's for everybody. Christmas is for adults who can "christianize" Christmas. I can start it up by deepening on my act of giving. I should remember, what Yahweh wants is not the ritual sacrifice but our love. Rather than agonize because I don't have anything to share on Christmas I can determine to organize myself by being convinced that the giving on Christmas is just a symbol of what I can do and what I can give the rest of the year. When I say "giving" I speak not only about the exchange gifts and the aguinaldos; I refer as well to the performance and integrity of a public servant, voluntary, elected or appointed.
I can "christianize" Christmas by being convinced that I am God's instrument. Like Mary and Joseph after the angel's announcement of the part they can do in the plan of salvation, I should not be paralyzed by fright. It's just normal to be afraid of our littleness, to feel insecure of the little gift that we can best afford. After all, it's only in our powerlessness, in being less than Harry Potter, that the saving act of God happens through us. Only he who is convinced that the mission he is doing is for God and for the greater family of God, can afford to put up with all sorts of antagonisms. He could live with almost anyhow; he would not even be afraid of death, much less of rejection. He knows and feels he is not alone. For trusting a God who knows what he is all about, he knows everything has a purpose.
Christmas is for the poor. It's for the "little drummer boy" who could offer nothing to Jesus except his drumming. It's for John the Baptist who said he was not even worthy of undoing the straps of the Messiah's sandals. It's for Mary, a simple housewife, who confessed how she was but a handmaid of the Lord. To "christianize" Christmas I should not be afraid. Whether I am a plain housewife, a public servant, or a technocrat dwarfed by my particular mission, in my poverty and powerlessness I should hope. I should pluck up more courage and be more determined. But in all this, the secret of my perseverance and a meaningful Christmas and New Year is when I believe more in the Lord of history than in myself.