By Fr. Ignatius Nyan Htoo
Christmas 2020 is truly a Christmas like the first Christmas of more than 2,000 years ago. The first Christmas was a simple Christmas, simple parents, simple birth place, no great people surrounded the Holy Family except sheep and cattle, not many people apart from the shepherds, the King of King was born not in a palace but in the manger. The challenges of poor transportation which Mary and Joseph experienced, no place to stay, no room at the inn and nobody welcoming them with accommodation, the threat to take away the life of baby Jesus etc. This is the real situation of the first Christmas.
Christmas 2020 is almost like the first Christmas. Our Churches have been closed for almost a year, no Church worship and group activities. This morning, I celebrated Christmas Holy Eucharist with only (30) participants in accordance with Government rules. We are not allowed to travel and visit friends, people are afraid to welcome us in their homes, even our closest friends do not welcome us and we do not welcome them in our home, either. There are many threats such as people testing positive for Coronavirus, being hospitalized, being quarantined. Many people are forced to lose their jobs due to the closing of workplaces, factories etc. The lives of ordinary poor families and people living from hand to mouth are challenging, including church personnel, priests, religious communities, catechists etc. The loss of many lives, people known and unknown to us, is the most deadly threat we are facing. These may include our family members, beloved friends and some people whom we may think do not matter.
Christmas 2020 offers us a deep reflection on the meaning of Christmas. Both Catholics and non-Catholics are well aware of Christmas. Most of us think that Christmas is just a festival to be enjoyed and then forgotten. Most of us think that Christmas is just an occasion for gathering and celebrating. Most of us think that Christmas is a good time to make money and profit, which is what see in the market places.
For us Catholics, Christmas is the unconditional love of God. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Our human values and dignity are not properly measured by the accumulation of material goods, nor power, or educational qualifications, or beauty. We are valuable and have dignity because we are created in the likeness of God with the reasoning, knowledge and wisdom to differentiate good from evil. We are great and valuable because God loves us unconditionally. Loving ourselves and respecting ourselves as well as loving others and respecting others is what pleases the Father.
For us Catholics, Christmas is Emmanuel. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel which means God with us. The most important and lasting possession in our lives is to have God in our hearts. We need to keep in mind that our material possessions such as money, houses, land, car, educational attainments even our beloved family members will disappear one day. The power, the authority, the offices we are holding right now will be lost and the physical beauty which we are taking care of and proud of will be lost as we are get old. The only lasting possession which we should possess is to have God in our heart. To possess God is to love because God is love. To love is to serve.
For us Catholics, Christmas is about peace. Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests. (Luke 2:14) Peace is at the heart of Christmas. Peace is a gift which God gives to every human being. Peace is what all human beings need and desire, for the family, for the society, for the country and for the world as a whole. To be at peace with God, to be at peace with our neighbours, to be at peace with ourselves and to be at peace with our environment are important. To be at peace with God, we need to follow His commandments, to do His will and to avoid sin. To be at peace with our neighbours, we need to take care of our greed, our anger, our pride. We need to have understanding, to have a loving and compassionate heart as well as a forgiving heart. To be at peace with our environment, we need to take care of our common home. To be at peace with ourselves, we need to know our strengths and our limitations. We need to know and accept that we are not everything and we cannot do everything. There is also a need to forgive ourselves.
Because of your love, care, concern and support, Christmas 2020 is meaningful and memorable.
With love and prayers,