Dear Emmanuel

You continue to be a perpetual paradox among Christians. First, You were born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Kings are usually not born in a manger. The place of your birth symbolized humility and simplicity. Yet three kings had to travel from afar and bend their knees before You in adoration. You were supposed to be a king, but You had no powerful army to back You up.

The people called you various names: Messiah, Great Counselor, Son of God, and Emmanuel. It did not take long for You to discover that the world You were born into was not perfect. The political and religious establishments were threatened by Your teachings. Diversity of opinions and beliefs during Your time was not tolerated. Terrorism was already an issue then. Certain factions of the elite wanted Your head on a platter. And they succeeded. Subversive is how You would be branded today.

Your leadership was questioned. Some of Your close friends abandoned You, although a few remained faithful to the end. There were those who were surprised by Your ordeal. They asked, “Why did You allow yourself to die on the cross?” Unlike the late actor George Burns, some screen actors today might not have the guts to play Your role for fear of being crucified.

True, You resurrected on the third day. But I am not going to talk about Your resurrection since it’s not apropos to the season of advent. Rather, let me share with You some of my thoughts this Christmas. After all, You started this yearly tradition.

When I was a child, Christmas for me conjured up visions of snow, glittering Christmas trees, well-lit lanterns hanging by the window, children dancing to the tune of some offbeat Christmas polkas, gift-filled stockings, and boughs of holly.

But is this what Christmas is really all about? Some say that Christmas is a season for giving. Fine. But what if I have nothing to give? Can I still meaningfully celebrate Christmas?

I have the proclivity to blame the business world for commercializing Christmas and pioneering a vision that it is only through giving of gifts that Christmas can be celebrated with meaning. I am not against giving gifts. I just feel uneasy with Christmas being reduced to the level of a yearly gift-giving ritual, devoid of its original meaning.

Wouldn’t it be nice if You were born again today to explain the meaning of the Incarnation? A friend of mine suggested, and I concur, that probably it’s time for You to perform some miracles again. It will be a different world.

I know that I am asking the impossible by asking You to be born again. But I feel that there’s a need for us humans to be reminded that Christmas transcends our present practice of gift-giving, singing carols, or gathering around the family table during Noche Buena. I am sure You don’t want Your birth to be remembered and celebrated in only this manner, do You?

Several years ago, a friend of mine was brutally murdered by the military because of his involvement in social change. The timing of his death made my Christmas that year a totally different experience. Here was his young bullet-riddled body gladly given so that others may literally live in a just society. For once I realized that life-giving was more sublime than gift-giving. Sounds sentimental? Not really.

I often have mixed feelings when I watch people celebrate Christmas as a one-time ritual of gift-giving. I feel that something is missing. I’m reminded of the night You were born, the stable, the animals, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph at your side beaming with excitement, and I cannot help but ask myself: Can the people celebrate Christmas in a manner that will hasten the salvation of men and women? Translation: eradication of extra-judicial killings and corruption in all levels of government regardless of who the president is, elimination of poverty (at least seriously give it a try), and social justice practiced in all aspects of our lives..

Emmanuel, You have done Your part. Don’t You think it’s about time we do ours?

What do You think?