'Tis the season . . .
September heralds the "ber" months as we call it in the Philippines and is the official start of the Christmas season. This may be the somberest holiday season yet in the new millennium.
"Let's sing Merry Christmas and a happy holiday"
That is the first line of the chorus of a popular Filipino Christmas song that is played across the nation. Normally, Christmas music streams in malls and stores across the islands in September. Some Christmas decorations also start appearing but recently it hasn't gone full blast until after Halloween. Malls start their sale season as people spend more during the holidays with the biggest discount sales towards November and December.
Flea markets and weekend markets pop up all over cities as vendors take advantage of buyers looking for Christmas food, bargains, and one-of-a-kind gifts. Stores stock up on all kinds of ribbon, paper, gift wrappers, boxes, and gift bags in preparation for massive gift wrapping. Event places, hotels, and restaurants are all booked up to the horror of a Christmas party planner who should've made a reservation at least six months ago. Cinema queues are long for much awaited Christmas and blockbuster movies.
Appointments for every type of primping and readying for holiday bashes fill up beauty salons' calendars. Enterprising people take every opportunity to earn extra income by engaging in selling handcrafted goods and offering services like hosting, party planning, Christmas gift shopping, and food preparation. Travel bugs prepare to spend a week or two at a dream destination locally or abroad.
Churches gear up for presentations and cantatas. Orphanages, nursing homes, and other medical facilities get ready for visits from different associations and individuals who organize programs, give gifts, and prepare feasts for them. Families plan large parties as relatives near and far return home for the holidays. Diets are forgotten for a few weeks as lechon (roasted pig), local delicacies, imported fruits, alcoholic drinks, chocolates, and other delectables feature on every Christmas banquet.
Planned activities and celebrations have drastically scaled down. The usual merrymaking are restricted because of the uncontainable pandemic. Ornaments and trimmings are scarcely seen as people have no enthusiasm to decorate. Quarantine and COVID19 parodies of Christmas songs have appeared on social media. The mood is different. It bespeaks of the times that we are in and perhaps, this is a good thing.
What is Christmas anyway? I've heard this answered in many different ways and they are usually: 1) A time to be with family, 2) Pay bonuses, 3) Gift giving and parties , 4) Scrumptious food, and 5) Sharing blessings by doing charity work.
Throughout the centuries, people have filled the season with festivities shifting to sales and marketing in the 18th century. Christmas metamorphosed into full commercialization in the last hundred years with the portly, jolly guy in a red suit emerging as its focus.
The one and only reason why we celebrate Christmas was slowly eased out of the picture and became an afterthought. Maybe now, with all trimmings and entertainment removed, we can finally put the spotlight back to the reason for the season - the birth of God's one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
We know that we're not celebrating the actual birth date of the Lord, but we are commemorating His coming into the world. We label years in history, i.e. BC, based on his birth. Most important of all, when we discuss faith in Christianity, we acknowledge that we are saved from our sins and hell when we trust and put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we are rest assured that while here on earth we can live an abundant life and when we pass on, we'll go home to heaven and be reunited with God our Father.
This is the real essence of Christmas or Christ celebration - the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world for our salvation and reunification with our Father in heaven. This act is underpinned by the pure and unconditional love of God. It is a glorious act that deserves all the praise, honor, and glory we can give. It is a cause for celebration because God made a way for us to be saved from eternal damnation. Christmas is not holiday stress, revelry, materialism, and excess underpinned by commercialism.
One thing I appreciate about the pandemic is that we've all been forced to stop, evaluate, go back to basics, regroup, and pivot. Everything has become more practical and simpler. We can actually live without many of the things we are used to. This Christmas season, let's shift our focus from what we'll miss to what was already given to us freely and wholeheartedly. Let's celebrate the Savior and soon and coming King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Titus 3:6-7, TPT (bold emphasis mine)
6 He saved us,
resurrecting us through the washing of rebirth.
We are made completely new by the Holy Spirit,
whom he splashed over us richly
by Jesus, the Messiah, our Life Giver.
7 So as a gift of his love,
and since we are faultless—
innocent before his face—
we can now become heirs of all things,
all because of an overflowing hope of eternal life.