Today is Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Christmas Is A State Of Mind

By J. Pampio A. Abarintos

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. – Calvin Coolidge

The joyful tidings inside a Christmas card do not easily translate into reality. Though Christmas surely is a time for loving, sharing, giving, laughing and merry-making, the state of affairs that we have seems too far a cry from the true message of Christmas. I should know, for otherwise, I would be out of a job as a magistrate if all is well with the world. Left and right, we face judicial battles involving skirmishes between labor and capital, husband and wife, family members, corporations, politicians … indeed, the woes of practically all walks of life are severely fought in the legal squabbles that figure in our courts. And these are just the documented ones.

There is a no peace in Iraq, nor anywhere in the Middles East. Even our beloved Philippines is not spared from unrest in the south and the bloody rampages of terrorism. Poverty strikes third world countries with more vengeance than ever. Many have died and are dying of AIDS and other life-threatening maladies. Substance abuse and alcoholism have taken its toll on the youth. Women and children are abused no end. Criminality is at its high. The earth is reeling from the powerful tirades of Mother Nature as she unleashes hurricanes, landslides, droughts, earthquakes and one other catastrophe after another. Global warming spells the advent of doomsday. The list goes on.

Forgive me for sounding like a messenger of gloom and misery – almost akin to the grinch who stole Christmas. But I feel it is necessary for our eyes to be wide open to the plight of humanity before we can genuinely relish the gift that is Christ.

Even the Prince of Peace never had it easy. Born in swaddling clothes in a filthy manger with barn animals as witnesses was not at all idyllic. His adult life was no walk in the park either, as he endured endless persecutions from malevolently jealous quarters. Tortured, insulted, eventually nailed to the cross, his passion spilled over for all the world to accept or disdain at its will – a fate none of us would ever wish to befall upon our loved ones. Yet at that crucial point in history, our redemption was won.

Which is why I so love Christmas. Without it, there would be no passion, no crucifixion, and no resurrection of our Savior. Because of Christmas, parched souls and uninspired hearts rejuvenated with renewed hope and vigor. Everyone is welcome to partake of the dawning of joy, kindness, virtue and everything that is good, in the wake of the long-drawn cold nights of despair and hopelessness.

True, our world is far from perfect, but Christmas has its way of weaving a miraculous spell over all things, suddenly making them gentler, more peaceful, even glorious. We cannot change the world, but we can always change the way we see it. In every war, there is the opportunity for mending broken fences and building more harmonious relations. In the midst of poverty and disease, the human spirit is forged even stronger in the fire of adversity. Misfortune makes even the most mundane delightfully precious. Calamities urge us to bend our knees and raise our heads to the heavens - something we frequently forget to do when days are sunny and just the way they should be.

In my younger years, Christmas had always been the season of presents, parties, greetings, and merry-making. Fast-forward to the present, as the husband, father and public servant that I have become, Christmas has evolved into a more complicated affair. Truly, as one grows older, Christmas deepens into a spiritual journey, not just of receiving, but most especially of giving. My most memorable Christmas was the one I spent with prison inmates in Bais City. No, I was not incarcerated or anything of that sort. Simply, in a moment of amazing inspiration, I decided to share my Christmas bonus, as Regional Trial Court judge there, by treating the prisoners to a simple Christmas party. Unexpectedly, I ended up being the one abundantly blessed in return, for giving liberates the psyche of the giver. Every year, I try to replicate that fulfilling experience by giving humble packages on Christmas day. Once, a snapshot of my house on Christmas day was published in a daily newspaper in Cebu. Apparently, the photographer found the rather long line of people leading to our doorstep waiting in turn to receive their “pamasko,” a sight befitting the human interest pages. I have no intention of boasting nor have I anything to be particularly proud of, as there was nothing special, grand nor ostentatious in the “pamasko” packages that we gave. I believe however, that it was the thought behind the gifts that made the picture worth publishing.

We are ordinary mortals living ordinary lives. Acts of love and kindness though, make ordinary mortals extraordinary. I am reminded of the story of the homeless grubby boy who lived in the street. One day, an old man sat with him, talked with him, shared with him some bread and hot cocoa, and gave him new clothes. Unable to contain his curiosity, the street boy asked in cheerful beweldirment, “Mister, are you God?” True enough, earnest acts of charity and concern can go a long way, and enable us ordinary mortals to contribute to life’s everyday miracles as the children of God that we indubitably are.

Let us also never forget the gift of loved ones, and the equally valuable gift of time. Let us not waste even one minute with specious follies and unimportant commitments. This Christmas and everyday, may we have unadulterated quality time with the ones we love - our spouse, our children, our family, our friends. To borrow the wise words of Max Lucado: “A man can own the world but be poor for the lack of love. A man can own nothing and yet be wealthy in relationships.”

Christmas then should not be regarded as a time, date or season.  Rather, it should be a state of mind. I read somewhere that if Christmas did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent it. I wholeheartedly concur. In a subliminal level, we know that Christmas visits the hearts of everyone without exception, every single day. We experience Christmas when enemies reconcile, when justice is served, when the hungry are fed, when couples get married, when a good joke is shared, when children graduate, when babies are born … Practically every blissful occasion simulates the very first Christmas where our destiny as a blessed people became stamped with finality. The first Christmas, too, was a reminder that happiness comes not in the material richness of the world, but in the radiance of faith and kindness of heart. Not least, the first Christmas proved once and for all time, that the human person can transcend difficult circumstances and accomplish greatness not in the passing temporalities of this world, but in spiritual possessions that really matter --- love, charity, humility, sacrifice for a worthy cause. And it is up to us to do our share in keeping the first Christmas alive every heartbeat of the way, everyday. It is after all, a sate of mind.

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