Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Most Christmas traditions and symbolisms are being supplanted with anything and everything that has nothing to do with its biblical origin, especially in western societies. Happily, the Philippines is still able to maintain its celebration of it based on its root word: CHRIST. Thus, while Santa Claus, candy canes, mistletoes and “holiday trees” (as the White House would rather call it now) have long been employed as Christmas symbols, the principal ones remain the traditional belen, parol, and simbang gabi.
The angel proclaimed the nativity of the Savior as the “Good News” to the frightened shepherds; a simple birth that carried a complex message and intense polarized reactions to it. Three wise men travelled all the way to Bethlehem just to pay homage to the child in the manger. Simeon, upon beholding the child at the temple, declared his readiness to die as he had already seen the Light of the World. But Herod, threatened by the news of the birth of the King, ordered instead the wholesale murder of newborns.
The inability to grasp the essence of the Good News is due to the failure to accept the essence of the Messiah by those who had molded Him, not in accordance with God’s divine eschatological design, but according to their personal preconception of what they expected Him to perform in their life and world. Not even the wise Nicodemus readily understood Christ’s statement that, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”
This call to inner, spiritual conversion and renewal is the very essence of the Good News of Christ as the Messiah. His own people misinterpreted the promised messiah to be the warrior-leader who, like Moses, shall deliver them from the Romans. Consequently, they were unable to comprehend what to them was His simplistic, introspective, non-violent approach to liberation and salvation. Worse, when they felt Him challenged the establishment, the hallelujahs with which they had greeted His entry into Jerusalem were soon drowned by their cries of “crucify him”.
Over two millennia later, most Christians proved to be as equally selective in their regard of the Good News as those in Christ’s time — those in the Philippines included. We rejoice at His birth but refuse His call to conversion and renewal of the inner spirit, and to make it the foundation of liberation from the turmoil of earthly existence and catalyst to eternal salvation. We would rather depend on others to solve our problems for us, most of which are our very own creation.
In our desperation for a “messiah” who would solve for us the litany of ills that we created, many are more than willing to sacrifice their freedoms for a “leader” who promises to deliver heaven by the means of hell; whose fraudulence is at once revealed by his values and ways that are the very antithesis of the values that Christ had taught and lived by. Needless to stress, such misplaced reliance on false leaders only consigns our society into an unending cycle of failure not only because of the incipient incapacity of the false leader, or anyone for that matter, to extract good out of evil, but also because of our very own refusal to make the right, moral choices.
Indeed, the choice of a leader could only be a reflection of our own values and sense of self-worth. The great eastern spiritual traditions — Christianity being one of them — emphasize inner personal spiritual conversion and renewal, without which no true liberation, salvation and positive outward change are possible, as expressed in the following old epitaph:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change the town, so I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I know the only thing I can change is myself.
And suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
Christ, and all that He stands for, is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds as the Good News that would change the world — not Santa Claus, and certainly not a false and morally debased leader. It is high time, therefore, to bring Christ back into CHRISTmas and into our personal lives so that, individually and collectively, we could renew the world by His example and teachings.
A Merry, Holy Christmas to one and all!