A Tagalog conversation between Jesus and Sta Claus has been passed around, it narrates:
Jesus= “Alam mo, naiinggit ako sa ‘yo.” (You know, I envy you.)
Sta Claus= “Bakit naman po?” (But why?)
Jesus= “Kasi sa Kaarawan ko, ikaw ang inaabangan nila.” (Because on my birthday, they are waiting for you.)
Sad but true. Many people, especially the young, are of this mentality: Christmas is Sta Claus, not Jesus. Hollywood and Walt Disney have produced so many movies –and very entertaining ones – on Sta Claus, and we Catholics do not even put a Nativity Scene or Belen in our homes. The Christmas tree is well decorated and lighted but no Belen is to be found. The malls have very commercialized decorations. In the late 60s, we as students would go around to see the different large sized Belens put up by big companies: Pepsi Cola, San Miguel, Magnolia, Philam Life, Meralco, etc. They were real spectacles. There was a year, however, when Walt Disney characters were displayed including the monsters. Then we now hear people greet us: “Happy Holidays” no longer “Merry Christmas”; taking out Christ from his own birthday!
Let this Christmas be an occasion for us to put back Jesus into His Birthday. Let us look back into the simple narrative of the Gospels, and be moved by the love of our God. God is the creator and owner of the whole world. He has the right to all the elegant clothes as we see at the Oscars. But he has only swaddling clothes –katsa lang ang damit niya. He has the claim to all the flood lights and camera attention given to actors and actresses, to outstanding basketball players, football heroes, or Formula 1 drivers; yet how does he come at his birth? He was rejected by the inn keepers and other town folks of Bethlehem. He has the right to a palace surrounded by servants and medical personnel, but he chooses a stable and is surrounded by animals and shepherds, the marginalized in Jewish society. He has the right to an elegant cradle or crib covered with linen and warm fabrics, but he chooses a manger. Manger is a trough –a palangana- made of wood, rectangular in shape- where the food for the cattle, especially the donkey, is placed. (“Manger” in Middle English & Anglo-French means “to eat”, giving us a hint of who he is = the Bread of Life.) We are attracted to the beautiful, the elegant –magara-, and the fragrant, but Jesus chooses to be born in a most unattractive place, a stable which is reserved only for animals. God is the owner of silver and gold, but he chooses to be born poor. We love comfort and convenience, but Jesus chooses the barest necessities. Many would choose to deliver their babies in an aircon room, with attending doctors and nurses, but God chooses to be born in an isolated stable with sheep, donkeys and cows around him.
As I look through the papers these days, I notice how they grow thick with advertisements and society pages. Much of fashion is printed, elegant people celebrating Christmas parties, many pages on appliances, drinks and delicacies, new resorts and housing projects, cars, electronics, furniture and jewelries. Our media is insensitive to the fact that majority of Filipinos cannot afford even a decent Noche Buena, much less a house or roof over their heads. Many cannot put on decent clothes to go to Church for Simbang Gabi. Many Filipinos have been left homeless by typhoons. I feel ashamed of how insensitive we have become, of how our government officials continue in their shameful ways; they take from the “Kaban ng Bayan” and spend it in lavish trips abroad, while our OFWs squeeze every dollar to send back to the Philippines to help their families. The actors and actresses are now bashing in the flood lights of the Filipino film festival, without thought of many helpless Filipinos.
Now is the time to go back to the stable of Bethlehem and contemplate the ways of God, so different from the ways of men. Feel the love of God, so rich and yet condescending to our poverty; so deserving of our love, yet rejected by innkeepers and town folks of his own city.
Mga Tatay, mga Nanay, look at Joseph and Mary; how they wish they could give Jesus a decent place with enough comfort for his birth, but they had to make do of a stable. What were their thoughts, their feelings knowing that this baby comes from God? They may have been sad, or perplexed that they could not give him any better or more comfortable place. They saw how God humbled himself to become a baby, but still he humbled himself the more by being born in a place like this, deprived of comfort and convenience. We proud and arrogant humans need to learn humility from Bethlehem. We need to learn love and compassion for the less fortunate as we see our God identifying himself with the deprived and the rejected. He comes to give himself to us, let us learn to open our hearts and our hands to the needs of others beginning with the members of our family. God is here giving himself to us, giving his love to us. Let us learn to give of ourselves, to give our love this Christmas –kahit hindi pasko tayo ay magbigayan. God is love, let us be witnesses to this love. Amen.