25 December, Sunday — In Desperate Need of CHRIST-mas

Christmas Day — Midnight Mass

Is 9:1-6
Tit 2:11-14
Lk 1:1-14

…a light has shone.

A dear friend of mine sent me a Christmas message on WhatsApp not too long ago. However, the message said ‘Merry X-mas’. I replied to him (and to all whose who sent me greeting using ‘X-mas’) to use ‘Christmas’ instead. I explained that we seem to be cancelling our Christ when we use ‘X’ instead. My friend refused to do so. Instead, he said it was ok so long as we know what it meant. I felt sad that this was the case. And it reminded me of how much Christ has slowly but surely become eased out of Christmas. Today, we have Christ in Christmas replaced by Merry …. X-mas, Beer-mas, Choc-mas, Thai-mas, Waffle-mas, ….it does seem that Christ is being cancelled out of Christmas – and if so then ‘X’ sounds about right. Sigh.

I just came back from a trip to Spain to holiday, and also to visit my daughter, who is doing her 5-month long university student exchange there. From the moment we touched down in Madrid, the pace got hectic … heck, it was downright frenetic. Every moment was a head-spinning attempt to fill it with unforgettable experiences of the food, the culture, the history, the drink, the shopping, the people, the amazing churches, the weather, even what the campus of my girl’s university felt and looked like. All that we must see, must do, must eat, must drink, must experience.

On a train ride to Toledo as part of a one-day side trip, I had some time to quieten down a little and a homily by a priest a long time ago came to my mind. In that homily, the priest said that Singaporeans lived a pathetic existence – that we seem to work very hard all throughout the year, simply to gain the trappings of secular success and for that short holiday each year. And that this came at the expense of our spiritual life and our family relationships, especially with our children, whom we don’t spend enough time with – quantitatively, as well as qualitatively. I can now see the truth in what he said.

Yes – our lives seem to be a constant pursuit of the unattainable and the disordered. We don’t seem to be particularly adept at recognising, pursuing, obtaining and sustaining that which should really matter — God and family. The only two gifts that come directly from God himself – our faith and our families. And so we try desperately to ‘make up’ for it at the end of the year – by squeezing in the span of two weeks, what we cannot achieve for the rest of the 50 weeks of the year.

But yet, I would disagree with the priest on the point that we do not treasure what God has given us. In fact, I would make the argument that we in fact do. We treasure each moment of the time given to us during the holiday season to search out that which is indeed precious – time with our God, time with our families, time with our spouses and children. We search for the divine spirit to countervail the spirit of this world. We search out a sense of being family again, as did God, when he created the Holy Family at Christmas. We search out for marriage again, as did Joseph when angel Gabriel assured him that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. We search out again, our children, as Mary and Joseph did at their bundle of joy lying in the manger.

We search out again, silence and holiness, as was given to the shepherds and the 3 Magi on Christmas morn as I managed to somehow experience in the few precious moments I could spend in the numerous churches, cathedrals and chapels scattered all over Spain, Portugal and Belgium (the three countries I managed to cover – all of which being Catholic countries) – regardless of whether these were jaw-droppingly astoundingly beautiful and glorious Basilicas, or the barest and humblest of side chapels, right next to an Airbnb I stayed at.

And so, to the priest I say this – Thank you Father, for your important reminder and urging to us to never forget that which is truly important to us and to always treasure them – the gift of our faith and our families. And hence, this Christmas, as the clock strikes midnight, and we are given the gift of Jesus and of Christmas, we finally get to see, do, and experience all that is the most important and needed in our lives. We finally get to experience – peace, joy, love, family, hope, silence, healing, restoration, salvation. We finally get to experience — CHRIST-mas!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us, as we are in desperate search for so many things that our souls are longing for but missing in the midst of the holiday season. We are distracted and disordered by all that is superficial and transient when we are led astray by how this world defines ‘X-mas’. And we lose sight of our Savior’s birth.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for never forsaking us. For always refusing to let go of us, and for constantly bringing us back into the manger of our lives where we get to see and know, to love and to experience, to honour and worship that which defines Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ, your Son.

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