The Lord Is My Chef Christmas 2020 Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear Reader! As I have been telling you these past weeks, this Christmas may be the bleakest and saddest we have in our lifetime due to the pandemic but at the same time it may be our most meaningful of all. Consider the following:
We may have less material things this Christmas, but we have more spiritual values like faith, hope, and love along with kindness, compassion, and tenderness; We may have less of ourselves but finally, we have more of others, especially family; Most of all, we may have less of all the trimmings of the season to have more of the Reason, Jesus Christ our everything!
Last Holy Week and Easter, I have told you that while we were so sad in the midst of a strict lockdown when COVID-19 hit us so bad, Jesus must be more sad than us with what we were going through at that time.
However, while many of us may still be sad this Christmas, Jesus must be happy not for our misery but because finally, He can have us completely as we continue to learn the many lessons of the pandemic, of finding the more important and essential and valuable in life.
But, can He finally have us completely this Christmas 2020 and hereafter?
How sad and alarming that after nine months in the pandemic, many of us have gone back to our old ways of not praying, not celebrating Sunday Mass, and worst, still emotionally distant from God and others.
Christmas is Jesus reminding us life is precious because it is fragile; He came to us an infant born in precarious situations like us.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.Luke 2:1-7
If Luke were to write the gospel today, he would have surely mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic that has greatly altered our lives in less than a year. And that is the good news of Christmas: Jesus comes to us in the most trying time of our lives like 2000 years ago when He was born in Bethlehem.
See the beautiful contrast presented by Luke: the powerful Caesar Augustus of the Roman empire and the true King of kings being born like any infant in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.
Yes, in our time there are so many women delivering their babies in difficult situations even worst like those fleeing their own countries due to wars and persecution. Here we find the Son of God from the moment of his birth had experienced the uncertainty and insecurity we ourselves are into. I have always told in my funeral Masses how easy it is these days to just die and pass away: recall the people we knew who simply died from COVID-19 and other sickness this year alone. Everybody says the difficulty of seeking medical attention due to the corona virus.
But that is how life is truly is: it is most precious because it is fragile, precarious, so delicate like an infant and a child.
That is what Jesus is showing us in coming to us born as an infant, in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth: the all-powerful and mighty God and King asking us to be tender and kind with Him born among everyone of us.
I love Zechariah’s description of God’s mercy in his Benedictus or canticle to God after he regained his speech when he confirmed the name of his son John:
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”Luke 1:78-79
And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tender compassion. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.
Like courage, tenderness or mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred that is why it is soft. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering — an identification of Jesus right at the moment of His birth with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.
Let God stir your hearts this Christmas, especially for the poor and the weak, for those closest to us we have taken for granted. Share the joy of the newborn Jesus by considering always the fragility of this life we have, of being kind, not hurting others physically or verbally. Enough with all the violence and brutality around us.
Christmas is Jesus coming to us to affirm our very first love: God.
At the time of Jesus, rabbis used to teach that God had intervened in the history of the world during “four great nights”: the first night is the beginning of creation (Gen. 1); the second was when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15); the third night was the liberation of Israel from Egypt or Exodus.
The fourth is the future one, the night when God will break all chains to put an end to all kinds of misery, to create a new world and begin His kingdom here on earth. For us Christians, Christmas is that fourth night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem as well as when He rose from the dead.
December 24 is always believed to be the darkest night of the year, the perfect setting of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ so vividly presented to us by Luke in his Christmas story when he juxtaposed the misery of humanity (darkness) and the glory from high of angels announcing His birth.
What a mysterious exchange, an eternal presence of the Son of God entering into our history as a human like us in everything except sin.
See the paradox of his birth: poverty and glory when Jesus was born into destittion under the decree of the pagan emperor, childbirth far from home without any help to His Mother, and then honored by the lowest kind of people of his time , the shepherds yet glorified by the angels of heaven!
All of these to affirm to us humans that we are God’s first love!
We may be living in the darkness of the night with no clear sight yet of the end of this pandemic despite the discovery of a vaccine. Both the government and big businesses do not give a damn on the people, not even provide the basic services like good internet or efficient toll system. Violence and vile becoming a daily staple among those in power.
It is so dark indeed but the love of Christ Jesus can brighten and illumine even the darkest corners of our lives if we come to Him in firm and consistent faith like Mary His Mother. Christmas reminds us that the night has been overcome and conquered by the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Take note that Luke is the only evangelist who calls Jesus so often as “Savior”: 14 times in his gospel and at least 40 times in the Acts of the Apostles. Likewise, Luke insists in his Christmas story using the word “today” to show that God’s salvation continues to happen at this very moment because He loves us so much!
Let me end these reflections with a prayer as I tried to silence myself these past nine days of Simbang Gabi:
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ: Thank you for still coming, not only today but every day, in good times and in bad times. Thank you for loving us in spite and despite our sinfulness, especially when we have no time for you, when we are so busy with so many other things we claim for our loved ones and sometimes, for you. Despite the clouds of darkness above us, you continue to come to us, bringing light to dispel the many darkness especially in our hearts, in our relationships. So many times, we have lacked tenderness and mercy with one another despite our profession of faith and love for you. In this time of COVID-19, help us go back to the basic truths and realities your birth and coming teach us: the value of our family, of simplicity, of humility, of smallness or littleness, of love and mercy, kindness and sincerity. O dear sweet child Jesus, move our hearts to be kind and loving to others; to always be careful not to hurt you in every person we meet so they may realize despite the miseries of this world, there is always your glory, your salvation to anyone who trusts in you. Bless us with your grace and truth, Jesus, so that through us, through our lives of witnessing, God may dwell upon us and be made known to everyone not only this Christmas but all year through. Amen.