But There Will be Christmas This Year – Jun Viray, SJ

John 1:1-18, Christmas Day 2020

There will be no Christmas this year.

Mayroon nga bang pasko ngayong taon? Before you censure and brand me as heretical, please hear me out. You and I know that the question is very real to many people. 

Mayroon nga bang pasko para kay Florentino Gregorio, asawa ng pinatay na Sonya Gregorio at ama ni Frank Gregorio na pinatay din ni Sgt. Nuezca nitong linggong nakaraan? Mayroon nga bang pasko para sa mga pamilyang naulila, nagdurusa, at hanggang ngayon ay nahahangad ng hustisya para sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay na mga biktima ng EJK nitong nakaraang apat na taon? 

Mayroon nga bang pasko para sa mga pamilyang nawalan ng mga mahal sa buhay dahil sa covid-19? Mayroon nga bang pasko para sa maraming nasalanta ng mga bagyo at hanggang ngayo’y wala pang mahusay na matitirahan? Mayroon nga bang pasko para sa mga jeepney drivers, at mga maraming nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pandemiya? Mayroon nga bang pasko para sa mga frontliners na nalalayo sa kanilang pamilya at kailangang alagaan ang mga pasyenteng may covid? Paano nga ba makapagdiriwang sa gitna ng mga masaklap na pangyayari nitong taong 2020? 

Mayroon nga bang pasko para sa mga kapatid natin na lubhang nagdurusa’t naghihirap sa panahong ito? Mahirap sumagot para sa kanila. 

Pero naniniwala ako na walang pasko para sa isang grupo ng mga tao. 

(Translation: Is there really a Christmas this year? Before you censure and brand me as heretical, please hear me out. You and I know that the question is very real to many people. 

Is there really a Christmas for Florentino Gregorio, husband of Sonya Gregorio and father of Frank Gregorio, both killed by Sgt. Nuezca this past week. Is there really a Christmas for the families orphaned, suffering, and until now seeking justice for loved ones killed in EJK these last four years? 

Is there really a Christmas for families who lost loved ones to COVID-19? Is there a Christmas for the many whose homes were destroyed by the typhoons and until now don’t have a proper place to live? Is there really a Christmas for the jeepney drivers and many others who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic? Is there really a Christmas for the frontlines who are away from their families and have to care for COVID patients? How, really, do we celebrate in the midst of the tragedies of 2020?

Is there really a Christmas for our brothers who are suffering greatly? It’s hard to answer for them.

But I believe there is no Christmas for one group of people.)

For some people there will be no Christmas this year. As St. Oscar Romero puts it bluntly, “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.”

There will be no Christmas for those who hoard their riches, who guard jealously their fame, and who wield their power unjustly over others. The glitter and glamorous lights of worldly wealth, honor, and power will outshine the star of Bethlehem. The noise and clatter of worldly allurements will drown out the sound and the song of the angels. With their hardened hearts securely locked from within by these illusions of security and self-sufficiency, they will not welcome the arrival of the heavenly Child. There will be no Christmas for them this year.

There will be no Christmas for those who enable and exercise a culture of death and impunity, who spread lies and disinformation, who steal from the Filipino people and make them poorer both through unbridled corruption and incompetent management of our already meager resources, and cause a painful divisiveness among our already suffering people at this time of the pandemic. For them, there will be no Christmas.

BUT there will be Christmas this year for those who have need of God in their lives.

There will be Christmas for those who possess the poverty of spirit and acknowledge their need for a Savior. I believe there will be Christmas for Frank Gregorio and his family, for all the orphans and widows of the extra judicial killings in this country, for all the victims of injustices, for the poor and hungry, for the sick and dying, for the oppressed and prisoners, for the lonely and depressed, and for all those who have need of that special Someone who is close to them in their suffering because he became one of us. 

There will be Christmas this year because, like the poor shepherds who lived on the margins of society, they will awaken to the call of the heavenly hosts and rejoice with the angelic voices singing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 There will be Christmas for them who most suffer and also to us when the Christ-child can find a warm and welcoming home in our hearts. There will be Christmas for all who are truly poor in spirit and generous of heart to their suffering fellow human beings. Amid the weariness of a world wracked with lies, division, violence, and death, the Savior will descend gently on all those who welcome him and fill them with a profound sense of joy, hope, and peace.

This Christmas, may our poor and humble hearts deeply yearn for and warmly welcome Emmanuel—God-with-us—in these challenging times. May He fill us with the abundance of his love that comes from becoming one like us, “the Lord Jesus Christ who became poor for our sake, although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8: 9).

Dear friends, this Christmas our hearts are grateful for the abundance of God’s graciousness in our lives. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” He became one like us, not taking away our human sufferings but sharing in them. With grateful and transformed hearts, we are moved to willingly share in the mission of the Christ-Child, to proclaim the Good News and, thus, begin the work of Christmas as beautifully written by Howard Thurman: 

When the song of the angels is stilled, 

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home, 

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

            To heal the broken,

                        To feed the hungry,

                                    To release the prisoner,

                                                To rebuild the nations,

                                                            To bring peace among all,

                                                                        To make music in the heart.

Dear friends and mission partners, on behalf of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, I wish to thank you for all your prayers and support. May you all have a joy-full Christmas and hope-filled New Year to all of us!

*image from the Internet

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