25 December 2009: Christmas Mass during the day
Isaiah 52, 7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1, 1-6; John 1, 1-18
At the end of Christmas Day, when the Misa de Aguinaldo is over, when the Midnight Mass has been done, and text messaging becomes easier from last night, and the celebrations become sober, and we have all opened our gifts, a thought sometimes comes to me: What’s next?
What’s next? Christmas in the Philippines is far the longest of all celebrations. And its peak reaches on Christmas eve, when we troop to Midnight mass and noche buena. During the day, the excitement drops and the whole world suddenly becomes silent and restful. After the Christmas frenzy, what’s next?
Yes, what’s next? After we have eaten the last piece of the Christmas cake, or the last chunk of lechon from the table, or the last plate of spaghetti, we ask, what’s next? After all the magic of the season, what’s next?
Two things come to me: It is the why of Christmas. First, Christmas reminds us of our faith in Christ, the reason for the celebration.
There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. Have you ever wondered about THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS? What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?
8. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
And finally, we remember why Christmas is celebrated. In the Gospels, the story of Christmas, or the Infancy Narratives tell us that God has always extended gracious mercy even to sinners. God has always lifted the lowly and has always heard the prayers of the faithful and obedient. God has always willed that the revelation given to the chosen holy ones be shared more widely for the glory of Israel and as a light to the nations.
And so we ask: What’s next? There a song called, “The Work of Christmas”:
When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky in gone,
When the prince and princess are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find lost, to heal the broken,
To feed the hungry, free the prisoners,
To rebuild nations.
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
Perhaps that is what’s next. It is a cliché to say that Christmas is every day. But it is true. We make people experience God’s gracious love to all of us sinners, by sending His only beloved Son, and our faith reminds us that it is something that we should do and put into practice.
One final thought: In Manila, people do tell you right away: Merry Christmas: Where’s my gift? Though jokingly, it tells us a grain of truth.
Christmas is not about expecting gifts. We teach children to expect gifts. We tell them that Christmas becomes meaningful if we receive many gifts.
Christmas, rather, is about thanksgiving. Our parents have dedicated their lives for us, don’t you think that Christmas is the time to thank them: it is our turn to give gifts to them.
Because, it is in giving that we receive. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.