About mid-January, I put away all my Christmas décor at the garage, storing them in a hard-to-reach corner. I forgot to pack away one item – a figurine featuring the Holy Family – the Blessed Mother holding baby Jesus in her arms, St Joseph close by, a large star above their head, their garments sparkling like gems. But because the boxes were already sealed, I let this ornament remain on my altar for the rest of the year, reminding me of Christmas every day.
Little did I know that this Holy Family décor will teach me a valuable lesson. As I look at it daily, the message of birth, new life, hope, joy, courage, peace and the gift of family reverberating strongly, it made me reflect that their holy presence has always been there, especially under this COVID-19 challenge, when toilet paper, masks, sanitisers, and fear became the essentials of life.
What have I stockpiled this year? 2020 seemed to have gone like a blur. All I could remember is the COVID-19 pandemic hitting us like a ton of bricks, the lockdown, the restrictions, the wearing of masks, the need to social distance and sanitise, the trips to the supermarket that have become the only source of excitement and freedom, the cooking of more meals as we serve our family working from home, the isolation from family, friends, community, church and the social distancing that has robbed us of our affectionate ways.
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In the grip of this angst and fear, however, I have also explored a new self. This includes a discovery of what is more important – less dependence on temporal attachments and more trust in Divine Providence. Each day there were new fears, new uncertainties, new worries, yet each day brought a deepening of reliance, faith and conviction to depend on God who watches over us and who walks with us through the fiery and stormy journey of life, and death. Never did I pray so hard for deepening of that trust in Him so I can carry through my day.
The year 2020 saw the death and passing away of many thousands from the COVID-19 virus, including some family, close friends, parishioners and community members from other causes, leaving us to deal with the sadness, the grief and the shock they have departed the earth, like a blink of the eye.
The sudden death of Tito Joel Magpayo, on 4 November, known to us as master craftsman, cartoonist, resident artist of The Philippine Times, winner of 160 local and international awards for his art pieces, is a great loss to his family, his friends, to our community and to the world of art. His passion and drive to reflect his thoughts, his perspective and statement on life through his paintings and drawings is an inspiring legacy for all of us to do what we love most. Many of us struggle to do what we really love to do, as a career or profession, making excuses for why we cannot, but in Tito Joel, I saw that there really is no hindrance or obstacle to achieve what our hearts are set on. God has given us wonderful talents and gifts, but it is up to us to develop them and let them shine so others will benefit, leaving a lasting legacy. For the many weekends we were welcomed at their home, while collaborating the four books of Katha and Guhit with The Philippine Times team (Alice, George, Asther, Lydia, Reby and our spouses) and I witnessed the warm hospitality, the delight for food and fellowship, the tender love he had for Tita Lynda and his family and his deep spirituality. There was something in his prayers that made me cry.
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The humble birth of Jesus (and his eventual death) is a reminder that we are called to live life fully, love abundantly so we can leave freely. This is the only “constant” I am working on right now. I don’t really know how Christmas will be celebrated this year by my family, my community or by my church. The logistics are very uncertain. One thing remains though – the birth of Jesus, whether celebrated in quiet, in isolation, or from a distance or with great fun fare, festivity and fireworks, will continue to remind me of what is truly important and certain – I am united with others through adversity and triumph; that hope, courage, compassion is what defines me as a person and the best legacy I can leave is to become a joint-heir in the Kingdom of God and to share this inheritance with as many people as I can touch.
Christmas is special this year – not for what we will miss out on, but for what we can make out of it, despite what is missing, and focusing on what is essential – living fully, loving abundantly and leaving freely, with a lasting legacy.
May the miracle of Christmas bring you closer to who you really want to be in Jesus and help you leave a lasting legacy of love, joy, kindness, compassion and peace! God bless…
(For comments or feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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