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This year is our second year of the Covid pandemic and until now, the impacts though have been lessened, are still very much with us. We have suffered a lot already due to the virus that has killed millions of people and wrecked the lives of millions also. Now, just recently those in Central Visayas and Northeastern Mindanao were devastated by the Typhoon Odette and until now remain largely paralyzed devoid of water, electricity, and other basic services. These are just two major tragedies that have hit us, I have yet to include the perineal poverty of many of our brothers and sisters. These are only a few vivid descriptions of how various natural and man-made causes make our lives miserable and for some seemingly helpless and hopeless. 

Difficult times also make us wander and even doubt the nature of God and His love for us. However, we, Christians know and believe that our God is a merciful God and an almighty one, whose power prevails over everything even sin and death.  Tonight we celebrate Christmas Evening Mass to commemorate the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ.  With the present pandemic and calamities that struck us, what is Christmas for us now? How does Christmas relate to our present life’s struggles in the midst of challenges and problems?

The reason and meaning of our Christmas celebration are well explained in the Gospel that we just heard – the nativity of our Lord Christ. Christmas brings us three essential truths that we can reflect on as we continue to face life’s realities and challenges.

  1. One essential truth explicit at tonight’s wondrous event is that God has come and he is with us now! Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s promise to save us from sin and death. God has not abandoned us; in fact, he is here with us now. Christmas is God being at home with his people. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Christmas is about God who lives with us and experiences the life’s problems and challenges we all are going through. He is not a far distant God, unfamiliar with our struggles and problems. He is God’s presence deep within our own humanity, involved, active, and sustaining of us.

At Christmas, the physical noise and material gifts can drown the true meaning of the season, the gift who is Christ Himself, His presence and His love. We remember Christmas as a happy event, noisy, fast-paced, and superficial, and that’s it.  Likewise, in the family, celebration and materials things may diminish the deep appreciation for the presence and love of our parents and children at home.  An OFW sadly recounted how disappointed his children were when he came home with no gifts to give them after he was laid off due to the pandemic. He realized his safe return to home was not appreciated anymore by his children because they were used to receiving many gifts from him. Many of us are like those children, during Christmas, we tend to appreciate and be more grateful for material things than for the truth that Christ is with us and he loves us and wants to share his life with us.

  1. Christmas tells us of another essential truth - that God who is Christ comes to meet us exactly where we are in our life’s experiences of imperfections, fears, and sickness because Christ came to find the lost, to heal the sick, to strengthen the weak, and to save the sinners. God does not take away our life’s problems and pains. For these are realities of life, effects of our sins on one another and on the world where we live; for these are parts of the imperfections of the world and of men and women. This means that God allows suffering and even allowed himself to suffer as part of this imperfect world yet without sin Himself.

I remember a story about a young girl who was very sick in the ICU, she requested that her mother be allowed to stay with her inside the room. Then the daughter confided with her mom that she was scared of death but felt better with her mom close to her. 

In the face of life’s struggles, we are sure that God is here with us, walking with us, experiencing pains and joys with us, and sustaining us to remain close to him.

  1. The third essential truth is that Christmas gives us a sense of purpose and mission in life. At Christmas, we come to know God in the person of Jesus Christ. When we know Jesus, everything else falls into place. Jesus makes us feel we are uniquely important and deeply loved by God. The warmth and joy we feel during Christmas come from knowing that we have a God who loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to us. Being loved and living in love, then we know the meaning of our lives. We understand our responsibilities for ourselves and for others. Christmas reminds us that love is what saves the world in the midst of sin and suffering of humanity.

Christmas becomes more meaningful to us amidst the sufferings of humanity due to the pandemic and the typhoon, Odette. In times of calamities and disaster, we are called to help and to share with those who have less. Love is never true unless shared freely in deeds.

I remember the story about a statesman who went to London to attend the coronation of the King. When he went home his family was very excited to hear from him how the coronation went. They asked him, did you meet the queen? Did you shake hands with the king? What did the princesses wear? He paused for a while and said yes but quickly added, “you know what struck me most that night? It was when I returned to the hotel, and outside of it, I saw two little children, a boy and a girl sitting together on the step of the staircase.  There was heavy snow at that time. The little boy took off his jacket and wrapped it around his sister who obviously was freezing in cold. For me, it was the most beautiful sight I had that evening.”

Three important truths which Christmas brings to make us joyful and hopeful tonight and the entire year.

  1. God is now with us.
  2. God remains with us and accompanies us in our life and life’s challenges
  3. God’s love teaches to love and share with others in whatever we can.

A Blessed and Joyful Christmas to all!