EDITORIAL: The mystery and message of Christmas
According to the UN, the world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion on 15 November 2022. Approximately 2.38 billion people practice some form of Christianity globally. This means that about one-third of the world’s total population is Christian. Christianity has been deemed the state religion in some 21 nations worldwide. The United States has approximately 230 million Christians, and Brazil also has a high number of over 180 million.
The Philippines has the world’s third-largest Catholic population and was the largest Christian nation in Asia. An estimated 92.5% of Filipinos are Christians, 80% of which are Roman Catholic.
The message is clear, Christianity and its various denominations have accepted the principle of love and peace. The other major religions in the world such as Islam and Buddhism promote peace and Christian brotherhood.
This brings us to the question: What is the secret appeal of Christianity to the people? For Roman Catholics, what is the magic or enigma aside from the Bible, and the mysterious story of Christ? Certainly, it is not politics, economics, or sociology. The only concrete reason could be the religious rituals that are celebrated in festivals. The two most commonly celebrated festivals are Christmas and Easter. But there are various national and local fiestas that produce results in the social, economic, and political lives of the people, positive or otherwise.
The Roman Catholic religion referred to these religious rituals as “sacraments”: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Ordination, Marriage, Reconciliation, and the Anointing of the Sick. The two most important sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist. Baptism is the ritual through which a person becomes a member of the Christian community, the Church. They fascinate and entice people towards a global village of believers.
Most Christians turn to these sacraments as a refuge from suffering and personal problems. They become the hope to fulfil their dreams and aspirations in life. Prayers are recited to purge evils of crimes, corruption, and communal violence including even mad-made subversions and wars. They become the virtual beacon of peace and comfort in times of natural calamities. And although they do not always provide 100% positive results the people’s belief in God erases the unfulfilled promise of salvation and the comforts of life. The peoples’ unanswered prayers are rationalized, and converted into perpetual strengths and unwavering belief in the Almighty.
This is the magic and mystery of the Christian faith. This is the message of Christmas that we are celebrating every December. And since Christmas is tied to the following year then the greetings of Merry Christmas are customarily coupled with the halloo of Happy New Year.