Still a season of grace
Given the headlines, one thought that even on D-Day it would not even begin to look like Christmas.
Nonbelievers are bound to point to recent news: the slaughter of innocents in Pakistan by the terrorist Taliban; the stabbing of eight children in Australia by, according to early police reports, their own mother; the unprovoked pointblank shooting of two cops in New York following weeks of racial protests in the United States; the revelation that excruciating torture remains the CIA’s method of choice in gathering intelligence; and, at home, the exposé on the national penitentiary where convicted drug lords live like kings and continue to ply their terrible trade. Equally sobering is news that the traffic enforcer run over by an irate motorist has given up his fight for life.
Even in the glitzy world of entertainment, discord seems to have taken over, as Sony Pictures pulled out the spoof movie “The Interview” lest hackers allegedly aligned with North Korea expose embarrassing secrets from the film company’s now compromised website. It doesn’t help that heartthrob George Clooney revealed that no one in Hollywood had wanted to sign his earlier petition begging Sony to stand its ground.
So, really, where is that vaunted Christmas cheer? Should merrymaking be on default mode in the face of such glum events? Should we keep our heads down, huddled with family and focused on the holiday buffet, rather than face the surfeit of mayhem and greed?
Well, why not, if only to get into the spirit of the season?
It must be precisely because of such unremitting diet of bad news and unpalatable grist that we need Christmas. It is the obligatory break imposed on us by convention to help us regain our sanity, as we are forced to retrain our vision somewhere less depressing to distract us from the gravity and circumstances of real life.
Beyond the quotidian deadlines and keeping a worried eye on the bottom line, Christmas gives us pause to think of more uplifting thoughts: the gift list that necessarily redistributes wealth, the Christmas decor that also brings up environmental concerns (even the Vatican has switched to LED lights to glam up St. Peter’s Square). And, for the clannish among us (which means every Filipino), there’s always that grand family reunion.
Part solemn tradition, part rowdy social obligation and part death-defying cookfest, the family reunion is a chance to get together in this nation where ties are sorely tested by the OFW phenomenon. The annual get-together affords us that rare chance to break bread across generations, when diets and bad blood are forgotten, and good times are quickly immortalized, thanks to selfies, Instagram and Facebook. Why, thanks to Photoshop, family pictures need never miss anyone again!
The scene, bound to be repeated in all manner of households everywhere, recalls the inspiring words of Pope Francis during the early unveiling of the giant Nativity scene at the Vatican, when he stressed the importance of symbolism in this season: “The crib and the tree touch the heart of everyone, including those who do not believe, because they speak of brotherhood, intimacy and friendship.”
Added the Pope: “These symbols are an invitation to unite, to come together in peace, an invitation to make space in our personal and social lives for God, who does not come with arrogance to impose his power, but instead offers his all-powerful love through the fragile face of a child.”
Indeed, that Christmas is celebrated around children is no coincidence: It is as if their innocence were balm enough for the world’s malaise. With kids often the center of our family reunions, we are given enough affirmation, a shot of positive energy and a dose of adrenalin to cast out the blues of a year fast slipping into history. Our personal batteries thus recharged, we face the coming year with stronger confidence and the will to overcome.
Today we toast the good times, dine indulgently, and replenish depleted memories with the hugs and stories of loved ones missing from our lives most of the year. We take a break, enjoy the time with family and friends, and simply savor the season. Today people find that goodwill and cheer are theirs for the taking, never mind the ghosts (and headlines) of Christmases past.
We find time and reason to celebrate, to be joyful, to discover the blessings that the season brings. This is what Christmas is all about: being thankful for this day loaded with meaning, with hope and with grace.
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