‘Tuloy ba ang Pasko?’

By: Gaudium et Spes - @inquirerdotnet - Inquirer.net | December 08,2020 - 08:00 AM

I’m writing this on the first Sunday of Advent, the time when the Church officially starts preparing for the Christmas season. I say officially because, for us in the Philippines, we start our countdown for the next Christmas on, well, Dec. 26. With all the things happening in the world, however, I’ve asked myself, do we still celebrate Christmas this year?

Tuloy ba ang Pasko ngayong taon?

I remember in 2013 (I was still a seminarian then), there was a discussion between our director in the Theology department and the seminarian in charge of the programs committee. They were arguing whether we should still have our Christmas party given all the suffering our people experienced due to Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

“Sino’ng mas malakas, ang Diyos o ang bagyong Yolanda?” was the question our director asked the person in charge—the question that ended the discussion between the two. The answer was evident, right? So we had our Christmas party that year to commemorate the birth of Jesus asGo a community, albeit a celebration much simpler than the usual.

Back then, I thought to myself: “Why should Yolanda prevent us from celebrating Christmas? Father is right. God is stronger than Yolanda.”

This year, with our country ravaged by successive typhoons recently and many countries still affected by COVID-19, I was once more reminded of the “Sino ang mas malakas?” question.

At first I thought, “Tuloy ang Pasko. Kasi mas malakas ang Diyos sa COVID-19.” Unlike last time, though, I felt something wasn’t right. Something didn’t add up. I felt we were asking the wrong question and ended up, in effect, approaching the matter in a quite insensitive manner.

Saying that tuloy ang Pasko because God is stronger than Yolanda or COVID-19 is like telling the mothers and fathers of all the children killed during the massacre of Herod searching for the baby Jesus: “Don’t worry! Don’t cry! God is stronger than Herod. You might have lost your children but God triumphs ultimately. The first Christmas pushes through.”

The question of whether Christmas pushes through this year should never be answered with another question, more so with the question: “Sino ba ang mas malakas, ang Diyos o ang COVID-19?” Why? Because Christmas is not about God flexing his muscles. Christmas is not about strength. Christmas is about God becoming man—weak, vulnerable, fragile.

I do not know if you would find this idea awkward, unacceptable, or even heretical, but I certainly know of people who would cringe at the idea of a weak God or a suffering God. But what can we do ? This is the message of the Gospel.

We might prefer a God who flaunts his powers, sends the 10 plagues to our oppressors, parts the Red Sea, raises the dead, turns water into wine, gives sight to the blind, and dethrones the tyrants of this world, to a God who becomes a baby—fragile and vulnerable to the Herods and even viruses of our time. Don’t get me wrong. God can surely do all the things I mentioned. But I think these are not the things that make Christmas what it truly is, for Christmas is God telling us, “I love you so much, I’m willing to become like you to show you that it is possible to live with love even in a world full of hatred and suffering. We’ll go through this together.”

Christmas shows us that God answers all our prayers concerning this pandemic and all the other difficulties we face in life, just not in the way we expect him to—in majesty, splendor, and awe.

Christmas is God telling us that the only way we can survive this pandemic is by way of compassion, cum patire, to suffer with the other person as a brother or a sister. Physical distancing, yes. But never social distancing.

The strength of Christianity lies not in its political or social influence. The true strength of Christianity lies in seeing Jesus in the other and being Jesus to the other by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and acting always with goodness and justice in all of our dealings (Cf. Mt 25 :31-46). Herein lies the true strength of Christmas.

The way we celebrate Christmas this year might be different, but there will be Christmas. We will still hear the angels sing the first Christmas carol ever sung: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of goodwill.”

So, sino ang mas malakas?

“Gaudium et Spes,” 29, is a Filipino Catholic who currently resides in Europe.

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TAGS: 2013, Church. Christmas season, God, pasko, Sunday of Advent, Yolanda

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