Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Is In The Heart

IT’S again Christmas! This year though, the mood seems to be a bit subdued, the atmosphere toned-down. The blinking lights and other garish decors appear to be concentrated only in the malls waiting to be bought.

Economists, of course, are quick to explain. People are wary about our current social, economic and political situation, they say. In spite of the heavy cash inflow from our OFWs, our heroes and saviors, people tend to be Scrooges this time.

Just as well. True Christian believers welcome this predicament, since it can help us in savoring the authentic spirit of Christmas. They believe that everything, no matter how considered humanly, will always work for the good.

Sometimes hardships and sacrifices occasion deep spiritual realizations and
sharp insights of faith. They help us in getting liberated from the clutches of a purely materialistic, if not thoroughly sensual world.

They can launch us to the far richer world of the spiritual and supernatural, using the language of faith and piety. That’s why Jesus’s life was one of suffering and privations. He asks us to carry the cross and to enter by the narrow gate.

Pope Benedict recently echoed what we already know quite well. “In present day consumer society,” he said, “this period suffers, unfortunately, a sort of commercial ‘contamination,’ which runs the risk of altering its authentic spirit.”

To Pope Benedict and all the other faithful followers of Christ, this authentic Christmas spirit is characterized by recollection, sobriety, a joy that is not exterior but profound.

These, indeed, are conspicuously missing these days. The challenge we have now is how to welcome Christ into our hearts not only during Christmas, when he comes to us a helpless little child, but also all throughout the year.

This is the challenge of many of the nominal Christians. We have to learn to look for Christ, find him, and love and serve him every minute of our life. And this in a clearly strong and determined way.

We cannot afford to be complacent about this. Some even dare to be cavalier about this, not realizing that they are making a fool of themselves. No, no. We need to be clearly strong and determined in this effort.

Especially now when we are constantly bombarded with impulses—images, sounds, shows, sensations, etc.—that tend to kill the spiritual life while heavily stimulating the bodily if not animal life we also have.

Just looking at many TV shows, reading newspapers and magazines, listening to the radio, this is what we can readily conclude. There’s a systematic effort, almost like a devil’s plot, to stick us to the material and the sensual, the here and now.

There’s no mention of God, or at least any reference or allusion to God. Art and creativity are purely inspired by earthly values, driven by passion and not by faith, pursued mainly with selfish ends rather than by charity that should imbue all our actions.

Such art and creativity generate a spiral of evil, a dynamism of sin, where bickering, hatred, envy, lust, and a long, endless etcetera dominate. There’s no peace, inside nor outside. There’s no real joy, an abiding sense of being in living communion with God and with everybody else.

Yes, there can be blinding lights, breath-taking colors and experiences, absorbing dramas, addictive highs and numbingly comfortable lows, but we are all reduced to the life of the senses alone. The spirit gets lost.

The real challenge of Christmas is when we truly welcome Christ in our hearts such that we become Christians through and through, knowing how to be both human and divine, natural and supernatural, practical and spiritual.

All our actions, our thoughts, our plans, our projects, our shows, our politics, our business, etc., etc., while being truly human and fully engaged with all the requirements of our nature, should never fail to have the Christian savor.

Somehow, while we are still on earth, we already taste the joy of heaven. And this is just natural to us.