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Christmas’ symbols and spirit

05:04 AM November 28, 2017

As early as November, I see and experience the Christmas season’s symbols and spirit.

My wife sits in a small corner of our house, opening the old boxes of Christmas decor from past years’ celebrations—the Christmas tree, the belen, the image of Santa Claus, the lights, lanterns, angels, bells… all beloved symbols of Yuletide. I sit beside her, assisting when I can, watching old things come to life again as they are renewed, refreshed, reborn. I am as delighted as a parent seeing a baby make his or her first steps.

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This ritual has become an annual tradition: My wife removes the dust from these ornaments, fixes those that are broken, replaces lost ones, arranges everything. After four hours of her sweet labor, the symbols of the season again fill the house: The Christmas tree stands magically in a special corner of the living room, the lights and stars shine on the walls, the angels and bells hang from the ceiling, and Santa Claus is set near the belen opposite the Christmas tree in the other corner.

Later, Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas songs fill the air. Happy and delighted, I thank and kiss my wife for the task she has completed to manifest God’s love and blessings.

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All these things are but signs of God’s glory and power. The magic of His love, kindness and forgiveness are felt by His people everywhere at this time of the year.

My past work in a bank allowed me to experience God’s spirit in different kinds of people.

There was this wealthy young businessman who worked 24/7. He owned various properties, but was unhappy and unhealthy. He was childless and estranged from his wife; he had no time for God.

Another client was a Chinese man, 85 years old, who was close to God. He engaged in many charitable works, was involved in church organizations, and was happy with his family.

I also met small depositors, social security pensioners, beneficiaries of overseas Filipino workers, and senior citizens. They lived in God’s providence with meager deposits, but were content with what they had.

I felt guilty as I gave away large baskets of groceries to rich depositors, while the poor ones received pocket calendars or umbrellas as Christmas gifts. I confided my guilt in my wife, who urged me to quit my job, get rich, and establish a foundation for the needy.

When my parents were alive, I took them to Kawit or Imus in Cavite to look at the wonderful displays of Christmas, or to Makati and Quezon City for the beautiful belen or the big Santa Claus on department stores.

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Of all the seasons, it is Christmas that tugs most at the heart. Maybe because it is the time when the Savior is born, dwells among us, corrects our imperfections, and sustains our love for one another. It is a season for family and friends, for laughter and tears, for extravagance, for worship and respect.

My parents are gone now, seeing God’s display of glory in the life beyond. I am retired from the bank; there is still no foundation for the needy, but I am serving God and others. The old Chinese man has died, happy in heaven with God. The young businessman now has three kids, and is enjoying his family and good works. Why did he change? Maybe I bumped his heart. My small depositors are still in the bank with meager deposits, but receiving God’s many graces.

In time Christmas will end. With heavy hearts, my wife and I postpone the task of gathering and wrapping the symbols of the season, sad to see the house again devoid of its spirit. Yet the trappings have to go into the boxes until the next time to come to life again. And yes, Jose Mari Chan’s voice will temporarily be stilled.

When Christmas arrives we are full of joy. As it ends, we despair. People will be on normal mode again, but God’s spirit remains, Christmas or not. His love endures, always there for us.

Mario D. Dalangin, 62, is a past grand knight of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Special Minister of the Eucharist and of Adoracion Nocturna Filipina at Fatima Parish, Las Piñas City.

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