Normally, it would be the spirit of Christmas that lifts us up. But time is abnormal now. Perhaps, it should be our turn to lift Christmas up. Possibly, in so doing, a truer kind of Christmas could just be waiting to be unwrapped. Devoid of glitz and glitter, lack of feast and treats, decors and gifts at its barest, Christmas could just be what it should be – a silent and a holy night.

In my many years of Simbang Gabi, this one is unprecedented in terms of the number of Holy Masses I presided over. What makes it numerous are the ones held together with grieving families who have just lost a loved one. Intentionally, I would avoid imagining how will they celebrate Noche Buena. If and when there will still be something on the table, I doubt if it will be sumptuous at all. Maaaring mukhang masarap, pero nakakawalang gana.

Mind you, I am not coming from a vacuum heart either. 11 years ago in New York, I spent Christmas at its gloomiest, and coldest at that. Days before Christmas then, I was presiding a Funeral Mass- that of my own nephews ( twin Aaron and Andrew… Tito love you both). What rubbed more salt into the open wound was that the Funeral Mass fell on December 19, the birthday of our younger sister Aimee. See? It could have been a double celebration- a Christmas and a birthday. But with all things happening then, I just slept Christmas Day away. Literally. It was a terrible time in the family. It was in that same year too that our father (Robert, Sr.) succumbed to an aneurysm.

Am I getting you morbid? Not at all. It is just about being realistic.

Due to the pandemic, all of us, in one way or another, would have Christmas as Krisis-mas instead. Businesses are down, jobs are lost, schools are closed, some places were ravaged by calamities, many are sick and many more are just sick and tired of whatchamacallit. For many others, this Christmas will just be by their lonesome, either because of work or due to quarantine protocols.

And so? Tuloy pa rin ba ang Pasko? Hindi tuloy ang Pasko na magarbo, pero tuloy ang Pasko na pawang totoo. The Christmas that is Emmanuel – the God who is with us who embraces us in our sadness. The Christmas that is silent and holy- in order to commend in prayer those broken hearts. The Christmas that whispers hope- to give strength to worn-out spirits. It will be toned-down, but it should not let us down. Lest we forget, it was The Baby in the Manger who came down, just so to bring us up again.

Have an uplifting Christmas everyone!



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