Christmas has officially arrived. Invitations to Christmas parties have started coming in. Christmas decorations at our offices and in the building are all up. In the grandiosity of the holiday season, marked by spectacle after spectacle of dazzling light displays, sumptuous feasts, and lavish gatherings in every corner, it is easy for everyone to lose sight of why we celebrate this momentous occasion in the first place. It is easy to forget that, before anything else, Christmas is a solemn celebration of our Savior’s birth; that, unlike our luxurious preparations and meticulous Christmas day activities, once upon a time, a poor boy was born in a manger to save humanity from sin.
It is perhaps one of the greatest ironies that Christmas, the most economically significant holiday of the year for Filipinos and for many people around the world, originally was not even about revelry in gifts and other material things. If there was anything “material” in the Nativity, it was that God assumed a material human body whom He greatly loved, to save us from sin and so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life.
Without delving too deep into the religious aspect of the occasion, let us simply put it this way: God is the god of love and, therefore, Christmas, first and foremost, should be a celebration of love.
If you are a worried that you do not have enough money this year to adorn your home with lanterns, lights, and a brilliant Christmas tree, cut yourself some slack. Ask yourself why you are expected to spend so much. Is this really what all the merrymaking is about? Do you simply rejoice because your home has more Christmas lights than your neighbor’s?
When you think about it, what is really important is that we are still here in this beautiful world, sharing our colorful lives with our beloved parents, siblings, relatives, and friends. Our faces are filled with smiles, not because of the presents underneath the Christmas tree, no matter how high they stack up, but because we are loved by the people we love and treasure. And this love does not come in any box covered in the most stunning wrappers and ribbons. Rather, it comes from the heart and is intangible and non-material in every way. This love, like God who gave it to us as an eternal and infinite gift, is immeasurable.
You haven’t saved enough for Noche Buena? Do not fret. Buy what you can and cook what is available. Serve modest fare on the table, and try to make the most out of it. In a practical sense, no one can blame you for it, too. It is not like we are living in a well-off country and everyone has plenty of money to afford extravagance. In fact, countless Filipinos will go through the holidays just like any other day in their difficult lives. Many will eat the simplest of dishes; some will even have absolutely nothing. They are not to blame for it, and so are you. Prepare what you can, and be very thankful that you still have something to share with your loved ones.
Yes, when you celebrate Christmas modestly, you are bound to go against all the pompous traditions you have gotten accustomed to. Some people may even think you are being too cheap and think less of you. But one thing is for certain: you may be walking away from material splendor, but you are definitely walking closer to the path of Jesus, whose birth is the whole reason for Christmas.
This Christmas, remember the manger. Remember the boy who lived a simple life devoid of any article or ambition of luxury; the boy whose only purpose was to tell everybody that true life awaits in a place where paper bills don’t limit happiness.Remember that his message boils down to loving your neighbor as you love yourself. When you have learned that by heart, you will have the most meaningful Christmas.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
As published in The Manila Times, dated 14 November 2018