It is the Mass of Christ, or Christ’s mass, as it were in the earlier times, this season of gift giving we now call Christmas.
All over the world is this festive spirit being shared by 2.1 billion Christians or about one-third of the total population of the world of more than 6 billion.
Christianity ranks first in the number of adherents to the varieties of the Christian beliefs and experiences; Islam comes in next with about 1.5 billion believers.
The numbers are staggering indeed, with ranks not saying anything, really, about what matters most in the world at this time, with all our issues about peacemaking, social justice, equality, freedom and democracy.
But we can draw something from the numbers—we know one thing from them: this is a world of humanity that holds on to a belief in the power of salvation, in the promise of sacred grace, and in the plausibility of divine blessing.
Numbers, however, do not matter when we ask where has the spirit of Christmas gone with all our expectations unmet, expectations that spring from the core of what this season is all about.
With wars in all its forms standing in for what joyful celebration is all about, we are left empty-handed except to repeat the question with a living hope that an answer could be had and soon: Quo vadis, Christmas?
The wars overwhelm us, wars in all their forms: wars in the mind of war-freak men and women and political leaders; wars against our sense of decency and self-respect including this latest murder and mayhem in the Mumbai catastrophe that marked once more our incapacity to announce care and concern to each other; and wars reinforcing our lack of humanity.
The key message of Christmas is the coming of the God-Man, the Savior, as promised, and as believed fulfilled in the Gospels.
It is a promise that has been fulfilled—the promise of salvation for all people.
The idea of ‘all’ in that act of making a promise and fulfilling it is one of inclusion, not exclusion, and thus, the announcement of redemption is not only to those who nominally and literally profess that label of Christianity but includes as well those who do good, and with their good deeds and heart as proofs.
The primacy of this sense of inclusion is to be understood in context: the coming of the Savior is not for a chosen people in that narrow sense of the word ‘chosen’ but to all peoples.
There is no franchise in the hearing of the message of salvation as there is no franchise in the translation of the goodness of our hearts into action.
In the cacophony of Christmas and in the ironies that we see including the contradictions that obfuscate the meaning of salvation that all people must receive, our loss of that meaning is palpable.
Commerce and its deceits have taken over and we have allowed our sense of Christmas to be commodified as well by the goods that clog our view of what matters most such as our holding on to the essentials of a meaningful and humane life without reducing our sense of the meaningful and the humane to essentialism, and our fidelity to our basic humanity that transcends labels.
It is this surrendering of Christmas to the forces that destroy our sense of goodness, our sense of beauty, and our sense of truth, that move us to ask that question about where is Christmas going, about what good news are we talking about in today’s contradictory ways of celebrating the coming of the birth of the Savior, and about when are we going to re-learn to trod upon the sacred ground to peace and quiet, to solace and compassion, to community and respect for our humanity, and to generosity of spirit and giving of oneself for others.
The world and humanity will be renewed once more if it learned to listen again to what Christmas really means.
This is all what our world needs; this is all what we need.
A S Agcaoili/Editorial/ Fil-Am Observer, Dec. 2008