DECEMBER is just a week away, but even for a country that is known to celebrate the Christmas season a few months too early, most Filipinos are in no mood to celebrate because of the terrible losses caused by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan).
The recent appeal of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to forgo lavish Christmas parties this year in deference to the grim situation facing Yolanda victims is quite appropriate. Throwing parties amid such utter devastation is like playing the fiddle while Rome burns.
The CBCP urged companies and groups to divert their Christmas-party budget to relief efforts for the calamity victims.
“Prayers alone are not enough to console and alleviate the plight of the victims. We have to do something concrete and relevant in order to address the pleas for help,” outgoing CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said.
“I consider the cancellation of Christmas parties very laudable. Whether or not we eat or drink, Christmas comes. What is important in celebrating Christmas is Jesus,” he added.
Many big companies have already signified their intention to cancel their Christmas parties and have already donated millions of pesos to relief efforts. We commend their much-needed empathy and charity.
What they say about a crisis is true. It is like a magnifying glass that enlarges your understanding of your helplessness and helps you see clearly your need for God.
We cannot begin to understand why or how we in Metro Manila and most of Luzon were spared from the huge waves and very strong winds that killed thousands of our brothers and sisters in the Visayas.
While we are very thankful that we did not have to go through such a disaster, we are sad and truly heartbroken that they did. We join the entire nation in praying for the dead, in praying that all the missing people will be found, that all those who lost their loved ones and their homes will be comforted, and that all the victims be spared from further misery.
We agree with Palma that we could still celebrate Christmas without lavish expenses.
Indeed, it is amid the most terrible tragedies that we realize the things that should matter most in the celebration of Christmas: family and friends getting together, people giving and sharing their very selves, and the love that survives after everything has been taken away.
“No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient; the proud; those who, because they have everything, look down on others; those who have no need even of God—for them, there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit, there can be no abundance of God.”
It is easy to lose the significance of Jesus’s birth when we have everything we need and want. Such bounty blocks the truth of the biblical text—the birth stories of Jesus in Luke and Matthew that are often read to us in the Christmas Masses.
We forget that Jesus was born amid the dung of an animal’s stall. That eventually, He would be crucified between two thieves. His place was, is and will always be with those who have the least, who do not belong, who are rejected and regarded as weak, those for whom there is no room in society.
Then, as now, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, for the least, the lost and the last.