It was a frustration for me that December opened as silent as Silent Night – there were hardly Christmas songs played in the neighborhood, a very few kids cheerfully caroling from home to home, or some small and big establishments in the city were having mediocre Christmas decorations. I understood that those are (again!) manifestations of the crises the country are experiencing. But I did not want to accept that I would over and over hear the line lahi ra gyud ang Pasko karon, naglisod man gud ang mga tawo (It doesn’t seem to be Christmas. Does it have something to do with economic crisis? )that I also heard for the past Christmases that passed.
I was looking for some traditional Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Kasadya, and all those that would remind me of my fun childhood Yuletide season, in my mother’s undying collection of cassette tapes but to my dismay, even Jose Mari Chan’s melancholic sounding Let’s Sing Merry Christmas was nowhere to be found. Still determined, I searched for Christmas songs in our publication office computer. I did not fail. I found more than 20 titles of Christmas music and that was more than good enough. Later to my discontent, I realized the music required audience participation – they were all instrumental.
Too desperate to feel and spread the merry spirit of Christmas through playing loudly the songs of the season, I finally asked a friend to download for me from the internet Christmas songs. “Kanang jolly ha,” (Please, the jolly ones!!!) I stressed out. Disappointingly, (sorry to my friend for the word) I got Christmas Won’t Be the Same without You and four versions of Frosty the Snowman. I surely did not have plans of reflecting on some depressing love song for Christmas! And nope, I did not have plans of memorizing Frosty’s life story in different renditions. All I wanted was to feel the season in the air!
Then came the dawn of December 16 – the first of the nine mornings. Since it was a Sunday, I promised myself I would attend the first Misa Gallo if not the complete nine days. I also felt it would be a great way to bond with Mama and Papa.
I loved the chilly feeling on my skin as I walked with my parents going to church. I was very happy seeing other groups and families bringing their plastic chairs as they were walking down the road under the still black but starless sky. And slowly the memories of my young Christmas days came back to me. When there were my brothers and my sister walking or riding in a tricycle with me and my parents to attend the dawn mass. Or when I used to go with my cousins or with my sisters’ friends instead if I wasn’t going with the family.
As I was approaching the church, I once again met my neighbors that I have not seen for a long time since I had been so busy in school. It was a semi-reunion when I got to see few of my grade and high school friends.
I looked around, there were traditional and innovated parols or Christmas lanterns hung by the church ceiling, near the altar was a big white Christmas tree adorned with small cards where petitions and wishes were written, and on the church platform – the Belen or nativity scene which is always the most symbolic Christmas icon. And at last I heard the daygon or Christmas carol before the mass – the undefeated Kasadya ning taknaa, dapit sa kahimayaan. Mao ra’y among nakita, ang panagway nga masanagon…and Ania kami, ning gabii sa among pagdaygon. Hinaut pa, sa kaninyo dili makatugaw. Pasko karon, panahon panahon sa kalipay…as everyone was clapping with the rhythm.
Before I could even finally say there goes the spirit of Christmas that I have been looking for, the entrance hymn echoed through everyone’s ears Karnero sa sibsibanan, tanum sa kaumahan, nunot kamo kanamo kay atong halaran…miabot si Hesus ang manunubos sa kalibutan. The thought of Christmas being at hand had taken me.
But the spirit of Christmas, I realized later in the homily, is not only about the manifestations that I had been looking for since the start of December.
The spirit of Christmas is joyful and penitential in nature. I had to admit that I forgot about that.
Christmas is not all about the cheery atmosphere the Christmas partying, caroling, and gift giving and exchanging bring but also about how we are supposed to contemplate on the meaning of the celebration. I don’t intend to be sounding preachy here, but I have come to that realization that true enough, there is more to rejoicing for the birth of Jesus because the fact that He had to come to the world is to save us from our sins? Inasmuch as we rejoice for our redemption, His coming could be alarming. God’s only Son had to come to the world Himself because we are a hopeless case. Have we really thought about us being that “evil”?
After the mass, I had another realization which is not something new. There is of course nowhere else we could find the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the celebration – in His word. With the help, I believe, of those who truly understand what His word means
Originally written December 18, 2007