Many say that Christmas is different this year. And truly so, especially when we only associate Christmas with merry making.
But for those who understand that this season is not only an occasion but more importantly a person, there is no difference at all.
It’s always fascinating to follow the Christmas drama in the Gospel readings in the 9-day Simbang Gabi. And one of my favorites was read yesterday, about Zachariah and the pregnancy of his old wife, Elizabeth.
We remember that the father of John the Baptist was visited by the angel Gabriel. And he ended up becoming mute for not believing that his old wife Elizabeth will conceive a baby.
I said to my wife after the gospel reading, “At such an old age, Zachariah and Elizabeth were still active sexually?” And she said,“Perhaps. During their time they lived longer and healthier. But I’m not really sure.” But if they were not, then it’s not only Jesus who is borne of the Spirit but also John.
Whatever the case, both John and Jesus were heaven sent. But my reflection was on Zachariah. His unbelief made him unable to say anything about the divine drama unfolding before him until he was ready to proclaim and fulfill his role.
Do we still believe? If there were no lights around, no gifts abound, and no parties left and right, would we still feel Christmas? Is there still a reason to celebrate Christmas in a pandemic?
Would the apparition of the angel to a young woman named Mary, the pregnancy of an old lady Elizabeth, the prophetic dream of Joseph, the traumatic experience of Zachariah, and the birth of a boy in an animal’s den, still ever be relevantin our world of activity and technology?
I echo the observations of many, that the celebration of Christmas has become commercialized, especially before COVID came. And the consequence is we get trapped by the materialism around. We hold “exchanging gifts”, expecting something in return for something that we give. We hold parties with the Birthday Celebrator left cold in the open.
There is nothing wrong with being merry. But our celebrations need to be truly that of praise and rejoicing for God is born. Like Zachariah, finally he was ready to obey. When he was asked what his son’s name would be, he bravely wrote, “John is his name.”
And that is when he spoke after a long time! And the words that came out from his mouth were that of praise and thanksgiving for the Lord Almighty!
We are also muted, ironically, by the noise and activity all around us. If these activities lead us away from obeying God and getting closer to him, then the consequence is missing the peace, love, and tranquility that only God can give.
It is not easy to be mute, to be stressed out in our time. I remember I got sick with tonsillitis last year because of over fatigue. That was God silencingme, so I could hear more.
This Christmas isdifferent. And thank God He works in mysterious ways. Now, we are able to willfully spend time for silence and muteness. My wife said that this is the only Christmas she is not stressed out. The times of silence brought her back to the manger.
Compared to Mary, Zacharia doubted and the consequence was the inability to speak of the goodness of the Lord. But Mary obeyed, and the consequence is being called “blessed among all women”.
We are all like Zachariah. We have been promised of a miracle; salvation in an evil world. But if we look around us, it appears to be an impossibility. But regardless, let us believe still. Like Mary, let us willingly carry Jesus and say, “I am the servant of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.”
It has always been like this since the beginning, it should not be different now.