The best part about Christmas is opening gifts. And the worst part, too.
It depends on what you get. And more crucial: what you already have. A million pesos would send a pauper to paroxysms of joy, and a billionaire to yawning.
Noche buena with the spouse and kids is fun, if Mom and Dad have love for each other and their progeny. If not, get set for noche mala.
For politicians seeking national office, every percentage point rise in voter surveys is a priceless gift. For those wanting simply to serve, joy lies in unsung toil to make destitutes and desperates no longer so.
What aguinaldo makes our day and lifts our spirit, says a lot about the kind of human beings we are and the God or gods we serve.
The gift of caring, giving and serving
For Fathers Tim Ofrasio, Louie David, Arnel Aquino, and other priests featured in this column, the best Christmas gift may be an inspiring mass homily that moves the congregation to love, serve and follow Christ more.
For Tony Meloto and the volunteers of Gawad Kalinga, there is a glittering ribboned package in each freshly painted home for a family uplifting their life. And in every farmer helped by GK’s Human Nature business of responsibly produced personal care items.
Dignified shelter also means fighting for land. For Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines social affairs secretariat director Fr. Edu Gariguez, the best gift is ending resort plans on Sicogon island off Iloilo, allegedly grabbing land from Yolanda victims.
Looking abroad, Fr. Anthony Patrick Santianez, a Filipino missionary in Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, is thankful for every soul surviving the virus that killed more than 19,000 Africans this year. Never mind forgoing midnight mass to avoid infectious crowds.
In Crimea, Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula taken over by Russia, Catholics count every day of worship this month as a gift. From January, the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church loses its official registration
And Sri Lankans are thankful for a pledge of peace from rival presidential candidates in next month’s elections, which coincide with Pope Francis’s January 13-15 visit to the predominantly Buddhist nation.
What make the rich and famous smile
Turning to those who are hardly facing hard times, the chimney stockings of select celebrities show a different kind of joy they seek during the holidays.
As compiled in Home and Lifestyle Network TV’s website, popstar Beyoncé got her beau Jay Z in 2011 the world’s fastest car, the Bugatti Veyron, for $2 million. His gift were Hermes bags worth $350,000.
Soccer king David Beckham reportedly gifted his singer wife Victoria, formerly of the Spice Girls, with a $2.4-million Boucheron ruby and diamond necklace, a $100,000 diamond encrusted handbag, and a Rolls-Royce costing half a million dollars in 2005.
Even the estranged find ways to spend for family: divorced from second wife Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise gave their daughter Suri diamond earrings, designer digs, and a pony. Bill: $130,000. The child also unwrapped a $24,000 Grand Victorian Playhouse with running water and electricity from mom Katie.
Also for the kids, actress Tori Spelling and husband Dean McDermott spent over a million bucks on fake snow for their children in 2009.
Those concerned about the values instilled in family and society by such trinkets, can yet be thankful that those celebrities are not like Herod’s wife Herodias. Imagine what her daughter Salome and the royal court took away from her urging that the youth ask the King as a gift for her entrancing dancing the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
Gifts make the man
So the gifts we crave and cherish tell of our souls and moves us. And it is the Christmas message not only that it is better to give than to receive, but infinitely more important, that we have already been gifted with the greatest treasure: the promise of eternity with God, purchased at the highest price of all, the obedient sacrifice of His Son Jesus.
The joy of being one with God and experiencing His divine Spirit need not wait till the afterlife, but can be with us even now, if we but open our souls and lives totally to His wisdom, love and power. We give Him our nil, and He fills us with His all,
The saints through the ages have been gifted with this heavenly peace and upliftment, even those suffering atrocity for their faith. Giving themselves and their lives totally to loving, trusting and serving the Lord, they receive His peace, joy, enlightenment, and all-embracing love.
I know what you’re thinking: that’s for the tiny few inspired by God, not the rest of humanity plodding in His sleazy, grimy world.
Except that there are, in fact, many people around us who find the greatest joy in taking care of others, including us. The parents who raised us, the teachers who educated us, the people who serve us and provide our needs, the priests who pray and minister to us. And many others who bring goodness into our lives and our world.
In giving they partake of the divine gift offered by God and enjoyed by those of His children who want it and purchase it by giving of their nothingness to others, and receiving His everything in overflowing abundance.
So will you buy that foretaste of heaven with your life and soul, like the shepherds and the Magi kneeling and offering homage and humble tokens to the Holy Child? Or do you prefer a share in the dollar-denominated cornocupia of this world?
Choose your gift, and find — or lose — your soul.