How To Celebrate Christmas

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In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Meditation of the Incarnation goes like this: St. Ignatius will ask you, the one on retreat, to imagine yourself with the Trinity looking down on the world. The Three Divine Persons see humanity in a state of chaos. The Trinity then determines that it is time to send Jesus to the world. In other words, God decides to fulfill His promise to give another chance for humanity to be redeemed, with the very grace of Jesus, His Son: “For God so loved the world, that He gave us His Only Son” (John 3:16).

I. Christmas is a celebration of second chances or perhaps more than just another chance. It is a time of renewal.

The first point then is that Christmas is a time for renewal and gratitude for another chance. When you have sinned and hurt others, when you created divisions in your past responsibility, and, in the belief that people do change, you are given another chance, Christmas is a time to take THIS opportunity for soul searching and at the same time, for the cultivation of gratitude, as that of a person who has been forgiven and given a new lease on life.

To be renewed, we ask these questions in view of another chance:

What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? And what ought I to do for Christ?

Join these great people: Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, and many others. JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter book repeatedly got rejected until a small publishing company gave it a second chance.

It is like falling in love. There is a quote I love from Instagram:

“If a girl is stupid enough to love you after you broke her heart, I guarantee you, she is the one.”

II. Christmas celebrates home and being home. It is a time to gather.

Time Magazine’s October issue tells us of a great exodus, the epic migration to Europe of many people from Africa and war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. Closely related to this are the immigrants from South America. Because of this, the topic of home becomes timely and relevant. Rarely in modern history have so many people who have been so desperate to flee. Now their brave and tragic journeys are reshaping Europe and the world.

More and more people are trying to find their home, in whatever country, and begging all to accept them into their hearts and yes, into their very homes.

On the 22nd of December, Tuesday, I will head home. I will fulfill a promise to my mom before she passed away last year. Last September 2014, I told her that I would take care of my brothers and sisters. I said that she can already be at peace; that she can go and join my dad in heaven. Two months later, she passed away: two days after my birthday.

Christmas without my parents won’t be the same again. My home doesn’t feel the same way; the warmth and smell of home cooking is not there anymore. But I am taking this chance to refashion my home. So what will home be for my family? I still do not know.

Around 2,015 years ago, Mary and Joseph traveled to Judea during a census, and not finding a place to stay for the night and rejected by many people, they instead was forced to choose an abandoned barn. It is in this barn, in a stable, that Jesus was born. It was in such a cold and desperate place, that our Savior, the King of Kings, became one of us.

And like you and I, and many others, are we not on a journey? Are we not literally moving from one place to another, like many refugees? Aren’t we all trying desperately to find our own homes, where we belong in?

To those in Grade 9 and those who are new to the Ateneo HS community, have you found THIS school a home for you? Do you now share our values? For those in Grade 12, as you venture out of THIS home, journeying wherever you will be, in whatever school you will find yourself in, will you find your home THERE? We still do not know. But we hope so.

In her book, “What happened to Goodbye,” Sarah Dessen tells us what home is:

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment and another person: building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”

This is exactly what the Incarnation means: that the Trinity decided to make a home in us! The Three Divine Persons chose Mary’s body to be the womb for Jesus. They chose Israel to be the specific context where He will walk the earth. And it is in His journey that Jesus would seek a home for Himself. He would say, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” but soon we would discover that He seeks His home in our hearts.

III. Christmas is about God’s presence, and about our presence to others, of “having skin.”

I have a story.

A little boy once woke up from a bad dream. He called on his mother because he was very afraid. Coming from the master’s bedroom, his mother rushed to him and embraced him. The little boy then begged his mother to sleep beside him.

But the mother said, “You know that God is always with you.”

“Yes, mom, I know,” the boy answered. “But I need someone with skin.”

***

DSC_0096We need someone with skin: Someone who can “incarnate” God’s love in our human experiences; Someone who will live the Christmas spirit even when it is NOT Christmas.

Pope Francis in his homily in the Meeting of Families in Philadelphia said that “holiness is tied to little gestures.” He quoted Jesus in Mark 9:41: “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name shall not go unrewarded.” These little gestures are what we pick up from home, but makes our house, a home. They are the quiet gestures mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers as well as children do, that characterize our homes from others. It is the hearty soup served when sick, the breakfast before school or our favorite meal in a packed container prepared by our parents early in the morning.

But why did God decided to “put on skin” in the Incarnation, at Christmas? Not for God, but because WE need skin.

Why do we need someone to take care of us when we are sick? Response: Because we need skin.

Why do we need someone to embrace us when we are frustrated? Response: Because we need skin.

Why do we need someone to be with us when we fail in an exam? Response: Because we need skin.

Why do we appreciate the tissue given to us when we cry too much? Response: Because we need skin.

Why do we appreciate the gesture of respect as kissing the hand or cheek of an elderly? Response: Because we need skin.

Why do we love being together as a family at dinner, face-to-face, not virtually: Response: Because we need skin.

And why are we not totally satisfied with a text message that says, “I love you”? Response: Because we need skin.

Truly, we need to hear it from the mouth of the very person himself/herself. We need skin.

***

So, celebrate Christmas with the people who matter to you. Be there. Be present. Be “with skin.”

From all of us in the Campus Ministry, Guidance and Christian Service Involvement Program, we wish all of you a blessed Christmas and a meaningful new year!

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“Pastores Sa Belen” is a traditional dance for Christmas in the Bicol and Tagalog Region of the Philippines. Young people imitate the joy of the shepherds in visiting the Holy Family. We, from the Office of the Associate Principal for Formation (Campus Ministry and Guidance) performed this during our Christmas party. We won first place. 😀
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