Christmas in the Philippines starts as early as September. Christmas carols start playing and decorations get hung up and displayed. This early, my mind would think of the upcoming Christmas parties, the exchange of gifts, and a family reunion. But due to the pandemic, I often receive messages from some of my friends wondering if there would even be a Christmas celebration in the first place. Will people still find the generosity to give gifts considering the financial constraints they are experiencing? These questions, most worthy of further reflection, strike me the most.
Gifts come in different shapes and forms. It is either something material or in the form of presence, deeds or gestures. Often, people take for granted genuine gestures and focus more on the material gifts they receive. For me, those intangible “gifts” end up being more unforgettable than the expensive goods I get.
I remember experiencing Christmas in my FMA in Pakistan in 2017. I was in Badin parish for a Christmas break and was helping out in the ministry. The day before Christmas, I told Father Dan, the assistant parish priest, that I would accompany him in his masses in the villages the following day. I woke up at 5:30 am the next day to prepare for our long journey on the way to our first mass in a remote village. Afterwards, we traversed again another narrow and arduous road to reach another village for a Christmas Day mass. In every mass, children presented a nativity drama. It was a delight seeing them celebrate Christmas that way. Overall, we had 4 masses and we arrived back at the parish house at around 11:00 p.m, exhausted but joyful.
As I sat inside my room, I felt filthy, cold and in need of a hot bath. However, I felt too weak to even boil water. After 20 minutes of resting, and deciding to just wash my face, I heard a knock on my door. When I opened it, I was surprised to see Fr. Dan with a pail of hot water. I felt a mix of emotions. I felt relief that at last, I can now take my shower. At the same time, my heart melted from Father Dan’s kind gesture. He looked after my needs even when he was tired after driving and presiding over four masses that day. That simple gesture reminds me of Jesus’ love for humanity in sacrificing Himself in the service of others. It was the best Christmas gift that I ever received in my life.
That experience made me realize that as Christians, the best gift that we can give to people especially at Christmas time, is the gift of goodness through loving gestures and a thoughtful disposition. Giving hope and being a consoling presence to the people is just as valuable as anything luxurious. We could give material things as a way of showing our generosity but our presence, love, and compassion to others are better proofs that Jesus lives within us. We also must take after Mother Mary, who’s “yes” during the annunciation is the start of the incarnation, and treat every day as an opportunity to spread love, kind words and gestures, goodness and compassion.
At this time of pandemic and other natural disasters, people can find it difficult to see the works of God. Let us commit ourselves into helping each other realize that the incarnate Son is working tirelessly on us through our good words and deeds. Our cumulative prayers, the mere act of sharing the gospel as a source of hope and inspiration to others, and our presence in times of distress and sorrow, would be priceless gifts to everyone. The best gift this holiday season, as sons and daughters of God, is Jesus himself and his saving works. He encourages us all to share the greatest of blessings through our gestures of love and peace, kind words, and mutual support.