“Jesus tells us that the love for others — foreigners, the sick, prisoners, the homeless, even our enemies — is the yardstick by which God will judge our actions, our eternal destiny depends on this.” - Pope Francis
It has been forty plus years that I have witnessed and celebrated the birthday of Christ in America, a nation built on Judeo-Christian traditions. Over those four decades, I have seen the gradual transformation and obvious commercialism of Christmas that may have contributed to the decline of its true essence, as the name of Christ is gradually separated from CHRISTmas. To be politically correct, people — including Christians and Catholics —greet or decorate their workplace or homes with “HAPPY HOLIDAYS” greetings, instead of the traditional “MERRY CHRISTMAS” signage. I often wonder why people are afraid or hesitant to say “Merry Christmas” whereas some non-Christians, like our Muslim brothers or sisters, are unabashedly proud to wear their hijab, niqab or burga, as a part of their garments. Although America was founded as a Christian nation, it appears that it is shying away from those Christian beliefs and traditions. Now, the vocal minority non-Christians who want America to forget its glorious past by demanding the deletion of Christ’s name and all things that pertain to Him. These demands include but not limited to the banning of prayer in schools and other public places, Christmas trees, stars and decorations; and even the Ten Commandment signs in public! And they are winning slowly but surely. Removing such reminders of our faith, regardless of one’s religion, and challenging our rights to practice them or pray, I believe, has some direct correlation with lawlessness and crimes committed in our country today.
People who conveniently remove Christ from their Christmas celebration probably means that He may not be really present in their lives during the other months of the year. To be a believer and follower means doing our best to follow His teachings and admonition. What we do daily becomes a habit. That’s faith in action, exemplified by the way saints live their lives. Christ was not only a revolutionary individual but also a great servant leader during His time on Earth. He was not just great teacher but our Savior by dying on the cross, to redeem us from our sins.
The story of Jesus — from His birth in Bethlehem in a lowly manger to His death in Calvary and His Resurrection on the third day — is the greatest story ever told. Our faith in Christ gives us hope and hope gives us life. Without HIM, our human life will be meaningless.
Christmas is a season that motivates us to think more of others, hence we take precious time to buy and wrap many gifts for our loved ones, family and friends. And we do our best and take precious time to “feed the homeless, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and visit those in prison” (Matthew 25:36-46). Even donations to charities and churches surge during this Christmas season. Practicing century old tradition, families and friends get together to celebrate this joyous occasion of Jesus’ birthday. Service to others becomes more common and has become a tradition for many families.
Serving others without expecting anything is a universal truth that keeps countless of non-profit organizations to continue their mission of volunteerism and servicing the needs of others from America to Africa. For instance, last Dec. 17, CNN again honored Ten Heroes of the Year, who have unselfishly did extraordinary acts of compassion to others without expectations of being compensated. The timing just about a week before Christmas was inspiring that motivated me to heed the challenge of Subaru’s CEO to donate some money to the CNN heroes’ causes to be matched up to half a million dollars. I just hope all the other networks or multi-national companies will also honor other heroes so that every month we are reminded and inspired that there are still many people who immerse themselves in the service towards others. As past Rotary International president Cliff Dochterman proclaimed, “Real Happiness is Serving Others,” a philosophy that hundreds of thousands of Rotarians heed, believe and practice everyday throughout the world.
However, with countless basic human needs that are unmet globally there is still a massive need for people to become Servant Leaders, to lessen the human suffering and tragedies in our world. More works of charity, social justice and peace are sorely needed in many parts of our planet. This columnist in his own modest ways, is also contributing his time, talent and treasure in a few volunteer works: like Catholic Church Peace & Justice Ministry and Prison Ministry ( www.rcbo.org./group/restore), also with Gawad Kalinga (www.gk1world.com), and to our Rotary organization (www.rotary.org). I challenge our dear readers who are not yet doing any Service Above Self to please consider volunteering in their communities in any humanitarian organizations. Doing so will make one’s life worth living and fulfilled, and real JOY will be its fruits.
Lastly, may I (again) share my Christmas prayer that was originally composed more than20 years ago:
My Christmas Prayer
It’s Christmas Day again and I feel all alone — except with my thoughts, reliving where I have been, where I am now and where I want go from here. Although I am a man, I can’t help but become nostalgic with misty eyes, while composing this unorthodox Christmas prayer.
Oh Lord, Redeemer of the World, is this what it takes to be alive? To witness or undergo the endless depravations, and tribulations of humanity? Why can’t all your children be happy and at peace not only in dreams and words but also in reality? For since I’ve flown from parental nest, I think I have seen more human sadness and struggles than the “joy and hope” that Christmas traditionally brings.
During this festive season celebrating the Nativity of the Savior of Men, it has always amazed me that people do unusual things to bring out their brotherly concern toward another; it continuously puzzles me why can’t your people show signs of love and charity every time? Tradition says, I was told, that’s the way it was, that’s the way it is, and that the mystery of Christmas time. And I asked in my prayer, “But Lord, why not?”
Dear God, I know I am just one creature who does not always understand and conform with what I see in this world, help me that in my desire to be a successful and strong leader, I may also be compassionate and loving person, that this Christmas and in the coming years, I may become more sympathetic and understanding with those around me despite their divergent views of the world we share, as I fervently pray that other people would also your light and do what is right and not what is just convenient. This is my prayer for the world and for all mankind.
Dear Lord, please hear these prayers from my heart and soul; I implore you especially that my health and my general well-being as well as those I care and love will be at its peak; that the basic material things that are necessary to be happy and fulfilled be provided for; that my hopes, fears and dreams in life are shared lovingly with all my brothers and sisters in Christ, and that my life here on this Earth will have real purpose and meaning.
Oh dear Lord, my Savior, hear me — this is my CHRISTMAS PRAYER!
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