Monday, December 25, 2006

The Faces of Christmas

Many faces flow before my mind’s eyes days before Christmas, here in a place where there are no lanterns, Christmas carols, dawn masses, puto-bungbong and bibingka, where one misses the familiar heart-warming sights of families walking together on their way to relatives and friends. Faces here have their usual daily humdrum look as there is nothing special here about December 25. In face I even have class on that day.
I will miss Christmas this year. For the first time I will not be in an environment where Christmas is synonymous to family, peace, happiness, justice, freedom and hope.

Yet so many faces back home hardly shine with Christmas brilliance. I see faces without lustre. I see faces rather glum and gloomy:
Hungry faces
Angry faces
Disillusioned faces
Tired faces
Scared faces
Cynical faces
Grieving faces
Resigned faces

I look at my own face and ask what then do I see? I seem to see two faces between the furrows on my forehead and the slight creases appearing here and there reminding me of my age. I see just beneath the surface a delicate dance between light and darkness, hope and despair, forgiveness and anger, peace and terror. Then I see several faces, and I see myself as part of my people as I see my people as part of me. I close my eyes and imagine Christmas. I see Jesus with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and their animals, the hay and the dung, the cold and the darkness. I see all these as part of me. I see me as part of Christmas. I see Christmas as part of my people. I see my people as part of Christmas.

This is why I so miss Christmas. Even if faces seem to lose their light to hunger, anger, disillusionment, exhaustion, fear, cynicism, grief and resignation, they are still struggling because of a faith in a God who never abandons or gives up on us. Thus, I look again and see smiling faces of hungry parents feeding famished children with scavenged morsels from a garbage heap. I see grinning OFWs clutching a few hundred hard earned dollars rushing out of the airport to meet and embrace their families. I see gaunt farmers with leathery sun burnt skins gather their families to feast on a fattened chicken raised and jealously guarded for this special day. I see workers taking the day off and bringing home meagre earnings, and most likely requesting for a “bale” an advanced pay of a day or two to be able to enjoy a precious day’s grace with food and some drinks with family and friends.

Hence, I see other faces fiercely happy, believing and hopeful, for this indeed is Christmas, the triumph of life over death, of hope over despair, and of faith over fear. I shall miss Christmas at home but I shall not miss home this Christmas for my heart is home to the same source of light and hope that transforms gloomy faces into the lively and beautiful faces of my people.

This is Christmas, as it was then and will always be. I won’t be home for Christmas but never mind for Christ is here at home within. Indeed, beneath the burdens and pains of life shimmers and dances His warm and assuring light unfailingly inspiring a smile, a tear, a sigh of gratefulness and hope and the deepest stirrings of peace. Merry Christmas.

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
December 25, 2006


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