Monday, December 17, 2007



By Joel E. Ferraris

Now comes another season of gift-giving. As shops and big malls are being pumped-in by companies with goods that are expected to catapult profits into another all-time high, the buying public are preparing their strategic shopping moves.

People work hard for months as they look forward to the 13th-month pay and other year-end bonuses. But as these incentives trigger wishful fantasies the imminent storm of possible pocket holes, empty bank accounts and increasing credit card debts after Christmas make people anxious and cautious.

As an experience, especially when one works abroad, going home every Christmas season is not only going through the hassle of rushing to buy plane tickets months ahead of schedule but also going through a lot of preparations to buy gifts depending on how long the list of friends and relatives is. Some even try not to go home to spend Christmas with their love ones with the thought of going through this nightmare especially when working abroad means to pay a big debt incurred during the job application stage.

Reunions with family, relatives and friends plus other social gatherings also compel people to once again meet those they hate or despise. But as fast as money is gone in the aftermath of this short-lived celebration, those temporary signs of reconciliation vanish and everything's back to normal. This is clearly seen in those well-publicized temporary cessation of hostilities between, say, the government troops and rebel groups in the Philippines. After Christmas, war resumes and the short-lived peace vanishes as fast as the smoke from the New Year’s Eve firecrackers.

In the University of the Philippines, for example, the sick culture of frat violence continues as fraternities that are locked in bitter and bloody rivalry do not even recognize the relevance of Christmas. In one instance that I know of, one frat attacked a rival frat during the early part of December in early 2004 while the country was still recovering from one of the worst calamity that claimed many lives in Quezon province.

Those students not only turned a blind eye on the well-publicized sufferings of their countrymen but, worst, also ignored the gift of salvation through Lord Jesus Christ. They abused the privilege to have an education despite the fact that they tower above the rest of the poor, out-of-school youths in the slum areas all over the country. These acts, combined with the reality that the country is in a lot of mess, aggravated the fact that this prime university fared low in the recent survey of the authoritative Times Higher Education Supplement. Out of the 500 leading universities in the world, the University of the Philippines is ranked 398th. This virus that our country is inflicted with becomes more apparent with the recent death of another student in UP.

Just recently, a failed coup attempt also ignored that the whole country is busy preparing for Christmas. What a timely date to call and entice especially the religious “to act as their moral obligation” to revolt against a corrupt government when from the very beginning the methods and tactics that these disgruntled people were using are questionable. Besides, the religious leaders should have done more to spread the Gospels of Lord Jesus Christ to the corrupt instead of fighting with other Christian groups to win more flocks. Are they really there to save souls or fight over a steady in-flow of tithes? They should examine themselves where they fall short of teaching people, rich or poor, not to be corrupt.

I cannot remember any passage in the Holy Bible, particularly in the New Testament, about Lord Jesus Christ teaching that the message of His ultimate sacrifice includes temporary peace in celebration of His birthday. I do not remember either our Master saying that one has to preoccupy Himself with buying and giving lots of gifts to people to show their love to others specifically on Christmas. I cannot also remember that He called for people to arms to oust a corrupt government to satisfy the struggles of the Zealots to revolt against Rome.

All I know is that the love He taught His disciples is a lifetime commitment instead of a brief expression to remember Him during the holidays. All I know is that He gave us this passage as a guide when giving to others:” but when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Matthew 6:3). And all I know is that His sword is the Word of our Almighty God and Father by teaching people His statutes and not killing them or flirting with violence especially through coup d’etats as a way fo changing a corrupt system.

I'm not sure about the origins of gift-giving among people but what I'm sure of is the story about how our Almighty God the Father was pleased with and accepted the offerings of Abel. It is because He looks at the purity of the hearts of men and not at the outward visible offerings and looks. This is true when He commanded Samuel to go and anoint the shepherd boy David to be king. This is true when He rebuked people who offer lavish tangible gifts to the altar instead of forgiving their enemies and correcting wrongs.

The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh of the Three Wise Men for the infant Jesus also loudly ring a bell especially because of their profound significance. Again that was another act of man offering gifts to our Almighty God the Father as these men from the East recognized that Infant Jesus, as the Messiah, was from God the Father Almighty. Also, there are many instances in the Holy Bible about gift-giving between people starting as early as the Genesis period.

In some cultures, dowries are a must. These compulsory practices are often abused by people and even during Christmas season this is also exploited by those who have vested interests. This is very true now in the world where materialism and consumerism dictates global trends. It is funny how one survey revealed that a certain percentage of respondents admitted that they "recycle gifts."

The glaring and overwhelming allure, in strong colors, of commercialism during Christmas thickly clouds the real essence of this celebration. This prompted one Chinese writer to point out that there is "MAS" without Christ because of materialism, apostasy and secularism. Another writer, Pastor D. A. Waite wrote, "THEY HAVE TAKEN AWAY MY LORD WITH GIFT-GIVING. Depending upon the financial resources available in the families involved, gift-giving is stressed, pushed, and exalted beyond all possible measure. The ones that push the hardest for such gift-giving are the stores who have a vested interest in the profits which accrue most certainly in such booming sales."

Gifts are defined as "something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present."

Mankind was created by Almighty God the Father as special beings. We are supposedly superior to other creations because of our ability to have a higher spiritual enlightenment, a chance for Salvation and the privilege to enter the heavenly kingdom despite the fact that a 5-year-old chimp beats college kids in computer game. But we seem not to evolve spiritually enough especially when we mimic the insect world. A study showed that by manipulating the nuptial gifts that female insects receive during copulation, female preferences can be exploited by males who are "cheating" on their reproductive investment by presenting easily obtainable token gifts.

People who focus on what they will receive, especially from the well-heeled friends and relatives or what they will give even if their economic status do not permit doing so miss the whole meaning of the coming of the Son of God and His foretold second coming. They miss the chance to avail of the gifts that our Almighty God the Father has prepared for them through Lord Jesus Christ. And a lot of them even refuse and completely avoid these gifts when they fail to study the Holy Bible to examine the kind of faith they need to have and to learn about the manner of true worship that they need to do that is pleasing to our Almighty God and Father.

Tradition has proven to be big obstacle in allowing people to accept spiritual enlightenment. As they become so complacent and too stubborn to discard wrong practices, they continue to carry this unnecessary burden called wrong tradition.

Wrong tradition has blurred the purpose why we, as children, had Godfathers and Godmothers whom we, perhaps, only see during holidays to give us material gifts instead of giving us spiritual guidance. Now I am questioning why we call them Godfather or Godmother.

9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

The best gifts therefore that we could offer to and receive from our friends, relatives and family members are not those that are wrapped in glossy paper and tied with brightly-colored ribbons but those that are unseen but felt. The Words of our Almighty God the Father, the message about freedom from captivity to sin and salvation through Lord Jesus Christ, the free gifts of the Holy Spirit and the real way of worshipping Him to please Him. All these are lifetime gifts waiting for us and for them. These were all prepared as promised by our Redeemer direct from His Almighty God and Father.

The purpose of the birth and ultimate sacrifice of Lord Jesus Christ and the preparations for His second coming must not be relegated to a mere recollection at the end of the year. They are supposed to be given emphasis as a way of life in this world in order to attain Eternal Life.

What a lifetime gift that you or me give or receive each day of our lives when we all trust each other by being truthful, honest and sincere as real children of an Almighty God the Father.

What a lifetime gift we could offer to others when we share the good news of salvation through Lord Jesus Christ.

Lastly, what is there to celebrate at the end of the year when the whole year we forget about the real essence of what it means to be a disciple of Lord Jesus Christ?

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