My best childhood memories were those that happened during Christmas. As Christmas day approaches, I experience moments of enlivenment not just because the day is near and there are other exciting things that goes with it, but because I get to remember how Christmas was before when I was a teenager back in the early nineties in my rural hometown. The feeling was different and the atmosphere was a lot more peaceful than these days. It was a lot different, and maybe better.
Christmas time back then was eagerly anticipated and looked forward to. Christmas caroling by children and various groups of different ages starts in the mid of November. Christmas lanterns and other traditional decors are seen hanged in the windows, doors and verandas of houses even before December begins. I know a lot of families who start tending pigs and poultry animals to be butchered for December celebrations a few months before December.
Christmas time before was more fun. We would play in the cold of the night without any fear. Streets were filled with children from both ends of every block and play Patintero, Tumbang preso, hide and seek and other traditional Pinoy games. The dark of the night wouldn’t stop us except when our parents call us in with spanking stick in their hands. Each morning, I am awakened by loud Christmas songs being played on cassette players somewhere from our neighbors. At school, our teachers require us to make unique Christmas lanterns from indigenous materials and whoever brings the most unique one earns extra points to their grade. We would make a Christmas tree from branches or twigs of coconut trees, bamboo and dead branches. We’d even make a fake snow from “Rosal” soap and use it to cover the branches of our Christmas tree.
People back then were generous. They’d give us coins when we sing Christmas carols in front of their gates and doors. We’d even sing a Christmas song with lyrics that literally asks for money and people would just laugh at it and even welcome us inside their house. The best Christmas caroling I ever had was when without any plan, me and two of my friends, while we were spending time together inadvertently decided to go caroling that night and earned 400 pesos in less than an hour for a two kilometer walk– we thought that we were a perfect trio and would have earned even more if we weren’t chased by dogs.
Amidst all the activities and celebrations in those days, the message of the Savior’s birth was pervasive. You’d ask any kid what Christmas is all about and they’d give the same answer that it was Jesus’ birthday. Churches play a big role in the communities during Christmas. They were the center of celebration and people would flock on Sundays and some nights when activities that relives the original Christmas were performed.
Last December, while waiting in line at a grocery, a woman remarked with a frustrated voice loud enough to let us hear why God had let it rain that day when they’re supposed to be on a picnic with her family. She was trying to convince the cashier and the rest of us there that it was indeed a bad day that it rained. Spending time together with our families on a picnic might be a good way to celebrate the season, but even how pleasant it will be, it is still not what Christmas is about.
I have already wrote blogs on Christmas where I talked about the Original Christmas and how it is being forgotten (The Forgotten Christmas). Today, Christmas season causes chaos in everyone’s schedule. Though most take their break from work and school, it is still the busiest time of the year. Commercial sales remarkably increase requiring forced overtime of frontline employees. Hotels, resorts, vacation spots and transport services are fully booked. Parallel with it, crime rate tends to get higher too and more “modus operandi” are carried out by small and big time felons. Are these what defines now our Pinoy Christmas? As it is the case, generations may have failed a bit to become true good stewards of the Christmas story. Has the generations before failed to relate to the new generation what Christmas is supposed to be?
After hearing the woman’s statement at the grocery a year ago, I have realized how far people have strayed away from God. For any person, forgetting a loved one’s birthday could cause a long-time guilt while properly celebrating it gives a joy to be remembered to both the celebrant and the celebrant’s friends and family. On the other hand, many people are not affected even if the reason for the season is forgotten and overshadowed with personal wants and priorities. Hearts have become callous and Jesus doesn’t matter anymore. God is surely not delighted when the incarnation of His son Jesus Christ is out of the picture in the Christmas festivities. A night ago, an Asian-Australian who is here for the month to spend his medical elective mentioned that Christmas in Australia is all about shopping and it is not as festive (where friends and families gather several nights in a week to for food, games, gifts and companionship) as how Filipinos celebrate the season.
Last Sunday, Our Pastor at church shared a message entitled, “Bakit may Pasko?” (Why do we have Christmas?”). I believe that if there’s one great story that we need to hold dear and must pass to the next generation – it would be the story of Jesus, our Savior. The greatest thing we can do, for this season, is to share to others the reason why Jesus came from Heaven to earth and tell them about His great love and the hope that He gives to those who will accept Him.
So why do we have Christmas?
In the beginning, God created the world and it was excellent in every way as stated in Genesis 1:31 – “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (NKJV).” Furthermore, In Genesis 2:15, The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it (NLT).
However, the world where we live now was corrupted. Because Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God, the sin brought forth sickness, hurt, war and death, and as a result, God’s creation was destroyed. In Genesis 3:17-19, God said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return.” As a result of one man’ sin, all the people after him have become sinners and was cursed. In Romans 5:19 – Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God’s sight (NLT).
However, God has a plan. In John 3:16, God extends His love to us – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His son Jesus to redeem us from our sins. It says in Luke 2:11 – “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!(NLT)”
God offered to us His son. The Christmas that we celebrate was because of the demonstration of God’s love. God wants us to receive the life that he is offering, and that life is found in His son Jesus. It says in 1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life. I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.(NLT)”
I believe that it is high time this season that we start focusing on the real purpose of Christmas. It is not about what we want, but about our response to God’s love and what He wants. He is offering us a gift – His Son, and if we are willing to accept Him, we can do it through a prayer. In Romans 10:9, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”(NLT)
You can receive Jesus now by faith through a prayer. Below is a suggested prayer:
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.” – From the booklet – Four Spiritual Laws
IF you have accepted Jesus – you now have in your heart the best gift of Christmas. And as a response to God’s love – tell the story to someone who doesn’t know about Him. It is the best gift you can give this Christmas.