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What makes Christmas a season of joy?

Be happy in remembering, sharing and caring for those in great poverty and need

What makes Christmas a season of joy?

A street vendor arranges Christmas decorations as Filipinos start to flock to shopping malls and street markets to prepare for the holidays. (Photo by Jun Mestica)

Father Shay Cullen, Manila International

December 15, 2016

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What makes Christmas so beautiful, so cheerful, and a happy time, especially for children? It must be the gift-giving, the time when children look forward to gifts and love and caring and sharing.

The children of some well-off families receive so many gifts through the years that receiving more means nothing anymore. Children from poor families, however, looks at a Christmas gift as a joy they never forget because they have so little in this world. 

Christmas is about change of heart and mind when the rich reach out to the poor. It's about caring and sharing.

It may not be much to ask, but with millions of displaced children in the world today, hundreds of thousands hungry and starving, it will be our duty and honor and a blessing for us to be able to share with them. 

To give from our abundance and not to keep it all for ourselves is the spirit of Christmas. This is what should be with us all our lives — helping others not just ourselves. 

It's a natural virtue to care and share with our own families, but to help a stranger in need is an act of great goodness and virtue. That is being a good neighbor.

A frugal Christmas is in order and we are challenged to have the courage and the love of neighbors and to stop and ask, "Who is my neighbor?" 

In case you have forgotten that important teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, I remind you, it is the traveler who was beaten and robbed and left for dead.

The rich politician and merchant came and saw him and walked on by. The simple traveler, an outcast — a refugee almost — of Jewish society, came by and helped the wounded and bound his wounds when others would not and would leave him to die. 

There are those who look the other way and walk on by. As many as 6,000 people have been shot dead in the Philippines since June this year. We ask why?

We are challenged by the Christmas spirit to put aside lavish plans for big spending and parties and think of the wounded and the dying in the war in Syria. 

These are victims of the ruthless bombing of civilians, schools and hospitals by Putin of Russia and the war criminal Assad. 

We must be concerned that the UK has sold 4.2 billion dollars worth of arms to the Saudis for their war in Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians including women and children. Whether they were killed intentionally or not, it's a war crime. It's like putting a sword in the hands of King Herod.

The modern images of the Holy Family fleeing the evil King Herod seeking safety as refugees are present in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan. If the family of Jesus fled to Europe today, they would be barred by an iron fence, barbed wire, a concrete wall with the signs "No entry, go away, you are not welcome here."

If you believe that is right, then you are wrong. Because there are certain values treasured by most of humanity and that is to be treated by others, as we would want them to treat us. That may sound selfish but it is the bottom line. It is the lowest motivation. 

The higher value and greatest motivation to help others ought to be because they are human like all of us. They have equal rights, dignity, humanity and God-given value and honor. 

Christmas has a message for all of us and it is in the image of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the most revered of prophets and the Son of God as he was born in utter poverty. He grew up, lived and worked in a poor family as a tradesman.      

Then there is the evil force of the so-called Islamic State that has captured and tortured many and threatens thousands more with death, as did the evil King Herod in his day of massacres of the innocents and their parents. 

Are we going to close our doors and windows and keep them out of a refuge and safety? If so, we are far from the message of Jesus, and Christmas will be just a wild meaningless party. 

We need to be renewed this Christmas by that message of love and sacrifice. That is what makes this a special time of renewal so we can be happy in sharing and caring for those in great poverty and need. 

That first Christmas was a hard time for the Holy Family. So make this Christmas a happy time for those fleeing war and dire poverty and are reaching out for peace and survival.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in the Philippines in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

 

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