The Philippines has the longest Christmas Season observance in the whole world. Christmas spirit and the celebration there start on the first day of September.
With this celebration comes shopping, family gatherings, reunions, gift-giving, sharing food, drinks, and fellowship. There is no denying that the celebration these days has become too commercialized, but there are those who still celebrate and rekindle the true meaning of this holiday— the narrative of the nativity and the affirmation of our Christian faith, spirit, and tradition.
The narrative of the nativity marks the birth of Jesus in fulfillment of the divine will of God which is to save the world from sin and to bring hope and peace to all mankind.
This narrative also has “sub-narratives” like the story of the Magi (the wise men from the East), the Star of Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn to have a temporary place to stay (“panunuluyan” in Filipino), and the story of King Herod and the massacre of innocent infants.
The Massacre of the Innocents is the story in the gospel of Matthew where Herod the Great, the King of Judea, ordered the execution of all male infants and babies who are two years old and under in the area of Bethlehem. Did this happen? Many biographers of Herod have argued and dismissed Matthew’s story as fiction. The Christian church though claims the babies as martyrs and there’s a celebration of their martyrdom (Holy Innocents Day) every December 28th of each year.
King Herod ordered the massacre because of his insecurities and state of mind at that time. He feared that he will be ousted from the throne by the prophesized Messiah and that he was tricked by the Magi because they did not inform him where the new born Jesus was. He then gave orders to execute innocent babies and infants hoping that one of them was Jesus.
We look back and realize that love and peace were definitely missing in King Herod’s heart and life. He wanted to hurt innocent babies instead of loving and showing concern for them. “ . . . And so happy Christmas for black and for white/ For yellow and red ones/ let’s stop all the fights/ A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year/ Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear . . .” says the lyrics of John Lennon’s unforgettable Christmas song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”
Lennon’s song challenges all of us to reflect and to realize the true meaning of Christmas. There should be no fear, no fights— no hate.
A few days, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines made this remark: “Itong mga obispo ninyo, patayin ninyo, walang silbi ‘yang mga gagong ‘yan (These bishops, kill them, these fools are good for nothing). All they do is criticize.”
This Christmas, why not make the resolve and do our own small gesture (whether in social media or by talking to friends and relatives), to deal with the challenge of spreading and reminding folks about the true meaning and message of Christmas?
Let us pray and in our small way help to put a stop to the killings and the spreading of hate and hate language around the world.
In the Philippines, let us pray and lobby for the safety of those who criticize the administration of Duterte and hope that the president will realize that receiving criticism as a government official is all part of the job that he promised to undertake as president of the nation.
Under his administration, a number of priests have been killed by unknown assailants and many more reported street drug users, sellers, and addicts were sentenced and killed on the streets through violent means.
It’s really time to embrace John Lennon’s call to stop the fear and the fights.
If we do, there can be a whispering hope that there would be more love and peace around— instead of hate and impunity. Hate and impunity do not accomplish anything.
“Soft as the voice of an angel breathing a lesson unheard
Hope with a gentle persuasion whispers a comforting word
Wait till the darkness is over wait till the tempest is done
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow after the darkness is gone . . . ”
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.