Christmas Story

Our college seminarians of Don Bosco Formation Center have gone caroling to their families, friends and benefactors. They sing and dance. They wear their biggest smiles and keep a 100% performance level when they go to these homes despite tiredness in doing routine choreographed-steps five or six times sometimes at late hours. But each performance is different. In every home they have a meaningful message to tell. They share the joy of the yuletide season. They re-tell the Christmas story to keep it alive today.

The attitude of faith and welcome is so heart-warming in each of the families in opening their doors to the carolers. Some offer something or none at all. Others provide dinner. One could simply sense the happiness the short visit has brought them. The welcome is spurred by the belief that God will shower more blessings on the more disposed recipients. The caroling ends with a blessing for the family.

Indeed, December is the merriest of months. And reason for all these is the story behind Christmas. We recall the birth of an extraordinary child. The focus of this celebration is the manger where God was born in time. We continue to tell and re-tell the story because until now this tale continues to amaze us. It is far different from a movie we watch like Spiderman, Harry Potter or Twilight where the characters are mere figment of the writers’ imagination. These personalities have only virtual existence. But the account of a God-made-man is for real. It is a tale of love which is larger than life.

I have spent four years in the land of Jesus. The Salesian Theological Institute where I studied was only about 6 kilometers away from Bethlehem which remains a picturesque and mountainous town. It is also about 9 kilometers from the historically important city of Jerusalem. The first time I visited the Church of the Nativity was unforgettable. From the so-called Manger Square, we passed by a large paved courtyard where we entered a small entrance. I was surprised that a big church could have such a small entrance where only one person at a time could pass. Not only that. The entrance is quite low that each person who passes needs to stoop or bow to enter it.

Later it was explained that the entrance was purposely constructed that way during troubles times in the fifteenth century to prevent horses from entering the church avoiding desecration. The entrance was never renovated since then to accommodate a more symbolic meaning: a pilgrim who enters the church of the nativity must learn to humble himself or herself like Christ.

The story of Christmas is a tale of God’s humility. St. Paul in writing to the Christians of Philippi encouraged them “Your attitude must be like that of Christ: Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance. He humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8). Christ’s self-emptying is referred to in Greek as “Kenosis.” It is this kenosis or utmost humility that Christmas challenges us to reflect as we pattern our lives to Christ.

My first Christmas Eve in the Holy Land of December 1993 was spent inside the Grotto of the Nativity. While in the Manger Square different choirs from all over the world were singing joyous Christmas carols, I found myself with hundreds of other pilgrims inside the cave where Jesus was born. The white marble floor on one side of the cave indicated it with a 14-pointed silver star bearing the words “Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.” But the atmosphere inside was different. It was reflective meditative. There was silence and faith-filled contemplation of God’s tremendous and amazing love.

The Christmas story will be forever fresh and forceful every year because God’s love continues to be faithful and true. God’s love did not give up despite repeated sin. It does not give up now and it will always endure until that day when the sun will no longer shine. But God’s love will shine even brighter come what may.

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