My niece, who is based in Europe, sent me this request, “Tito, can you write something about Christmas.” At an instant, what she said came to me as a normal plead so I really did not give it a thought. Then I asked her why was she asking for that particular topic. Her reply got me into deep thinking and, quite honestly, worrying. “Kasi Tito, parang hindi ko na feel ang Christmas nowadays.” Then and there, I tried to justify why my niece would think and feel that way about Christmas. Maybe she is missing the brand of Christmas of Filipino traditions. Maybe she is scheduled on a midnight shift on Christmas Eve in the hospital (A nurse she is). Maybe malamig ang kanyang Pasko, literally and figuratively. There could be a lot of maybes why Christmas seems to be off of the air. But there could also that “maybe” where we are wrong about our idea of Christmas. Another “maybe” is we have altogether muddled the true meaning of Christmas by focusing more on externals and everything material. All told, what is actually right and beautiful is to make a reckoning of what Christmas truly means. Or perhaps, we can simply make a sense of what there is and what is not there come Christmas.
Ano nga ba ang Pasko? Bakit may Pasko? At para kanino ang Pasko? Or, sarcastically, bakit meron pa kasing Pasko?
What Christmas is not? These could be some signs that you could not be fully enjoying Christmas right now. 1) You are anxiously looking to monetary bonuses. Naiinip ka nung di pa dumating. Nung dumating na inubos mo agad… at nagkulang pa. 2) Your calendar is insufficient in dates and time to attend to all the parties, reunions and gatherings. Too agog not to miss out any sort of gimmick. Ergo, you would end up cranky during the day and too puyat. But not payat since you binged on everything at table with a ready excuse- “Minsan lang naman to… Tsaka Pasko naman ngayon e.” 3) At the exchange of gifts, you are trying to figure out how much could the price be of the gift you got. And guess what, sumisimple ka na titingnan mo ang gift whenever you would find yourself in a shopping mall or check on the price online. And 4) Very much part now of Christmas is being busy. Instead of anything, you are fiercely busy checking on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all. You post and check how much likes and emojis you accumulated. What is quite interesting is you have become a fantastic stalker of all time. When you have these signs, gudlak sa Pasko!
How do we make-do then in order to be Christmassy? My unsolicited advice is that we enter into the experience of the very first Christmas story. That silent night… that holiest of nights. First, it was about being rejected. Second, it was about those unknowns and those who are being taken for granted. And lastly, It was also about the giving of self more than mere distribution of material gifts (never mind if it is pinaglumaan or what) and quick visits.
There was no more room for them. How would you feel with Mary and Joseph that very night when the usual birthday is usually grand, much less comfortable. Panunuluyan is actually walang matuluyan. Wittingly or unwittingly, it was also a night of rejection. Nonetheless, Mary and Joseph went on. Giving up was never an option. They found a crib, albeit a manger. Nowadays, being rejected is being seen-zoned. You were there but people were just too busy to reply, let alone take notice of you. Hindi na nakaalaala dahil abalang-abala na. Amidst and despite everything, Christmas means we just have to keep going. It when the going gets tough that the tough gets going though. Somewhere and sooner, with Mary and Joseph at that, you will also find your place.
On that extraordinary night, while the whole world was fast asleep, there was that band of shepherds in the wilderness who was awake as they were looking after their sheepfold. They were in a deserted place certainly because they were deserted people. People looked down upon them as good-for-nothing or as a bunch of scum of the society. But on a fateful night, light shone upon them. Angels from on high proclaimed to them the good news of the Savior’s birth. In no time, they heeded the angels and rushed to the stable. They were the first ones to recognize God’s presence. This singular privilege of coming first to the manger was because they were awake. Isn’t this the reminder all along as we prepare for Christmas? That Advent reminder – Stay awake!
Wherefore, let us altogether raise the roof for those who would be on duty on the midnight of Christmas instead of family-feasting over Noche Buena. Our modern-day shepherds are the midnight shift nurses and all healthcare professionals, the security guards in warehouses, even those seamen who are in the middle of the ocean of nowhere, our soldiers and policemen who keep watch over us from their respective detachment and stations. Lest we forget, those priests and missionaries too who after saying the Midnight Mass is left alone to themselves because they are also away from home or would just simply sleep the tire away from the loaded schedule. Hail, our shepherds!
Above all, Christmas is the giving of our selves. Nothing more, nothing less. What actually worries a lot of people right now is the brand of the gift they will share. Somebody just confided, “I’ve been so stressed looking for the perfect gift for my friends. I’m worried that they wouldn’t like what I bought because it’s not “expensive”. Others are equally edgy as what aguinaldo would please their inaanak. But the fact of the matter is that there are parents (kumare and kumpare) who would be more particular (read: choosy) than the inaanaks. In a word, thought no longer counts – it has to be the gift with a pricetag. Sad.
What Christmas is now? I said Masses recently in Manila to campaign for funds in our construction project to put up retirement home for priests. Therefrom, I got this text from a young professional – “Hi father, ako po ung lumapit sa inyo kanina sa Church. Architect po ako. And alam ko po na di ko po kayo matulungan monetarily but i’m willing to donate services for free and help you in the design po ng retirement home sa Palawan. If okay lng po sa inyo pwede ko pong e send ung portfolio ko and CV.. Ginagawa ko po ito dahil marami pong blessings na binigay si Lord this year at gusto ko sanang makatulong rin po sa iba.”
All said and all told, cheers to Christmas! Welcome Christmas time! Have a good one, everyone.