Christmas in our hearts
With the onset of September, the singer, lyricist, and composer Jose Mari Chan, a Cebuano on his mother’s side, has become a popular figure on social media.
Subscribers cannot help but associate Chan with the “-ber” months, when malls across the country begin playing his Christmas songs on heavy rotation.
While traders may have vested profiteering interests in creating a holiday atmosphere at the beginning of the final trimester of the year, it has become accepted by most Filipinos that our Christmas starts in September and ends in February.
Netizens have been circulating memes with photos of Chan and material taken from his “Christmas in Our Hearts” album to inaugurate Philippine Christmas 2018.
The latest meme I saw on my Facebook timeline employs a pun to explain the connection between the Christmas family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus with the artist’s name. Joseph and Mary, clearly enough, explains the provenance of Jose and Mari. Chan sounds like the Tagalog “tiyan” (stomach) and links the family name to the womb of Mary, where Jesus first dwelt.
Comic relief aside, I hope the fact that we take a longer time than the rest of the world does to reflect on the Christmas mystery will do us good.
Christmas is not just a story about angels, wise men, shepherds, and heaven come to earth. It is also a story about — to borrow a phrase from the song of the Blessed Virgin — the mighty being cast down from their thrones and the lowly being lifted up. It is a story of a poor family becoming the Holy Family at the center of history; not the imperial family of Rome, not the family of Herod.
Who are the mighty whose downfall is written on the wall? We see many of them wherever law enforcement deprives the innocent or untried of the protection of the law, wherever moral resistance to unjust ways is met with Draconian responses, wherever historical atrocities are tabled for oblivion rather than for truthful retrospection that begets reconciliation based on justice.
Who are the lowly whose destiny is to be lifted up? I see some of them sleeping on the sidewalk at corner Escario Street and Gorordo Avenue. I wonder when they go when it rains, when they are more vulnerable than even the frangipani blossoms pelted by raindrops onto the pavement.
I see some of them shaking makeshift tambourines of wood and nails and softdrink crowns as they sit by Archbishop Reyes Avenue singing carols probably familiar to our grandparents and waiting for the passerby who would give them a few coins or, if they are lucky, some food.
I see them in the idle Cebu Cultural Center, victims of a recent, nearby fire who have made the building’s driveway and threshold their temporary shelter.
Will Christmas be truly in their hearts? I do not know if they have the capital to sell lanterns on the streets, give gifts or exchange cards as the characters of Chan’s “Christmas in Our Hearts” do. But Scripture tells us we will all be judged on how we respond to them.
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Officially, following the new liturgical calendar born of the Catholic Church’s Vatican Council II, This year’s Christmas season begins at sunset on Dec. 24 and ends on Jan. 13, 2019, Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.
Months will still pass before the Solemnity of the Birth of the Savior, but Christians nevertheless have a birthday to look forward to this month.
The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be celebrated this Saturday, Sept. 8, exactly nine months after Dec. 8, when her Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne was celebrated.
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