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Christmas: of Dreams, Giving and Thanksgiving

  1. Introduction

Through the years, the celebration of Christmas has taken on different meanings to me. As a child, I looked forward to opening the gifts “Santa Claus” left beside the  shoes and socks that me and my siblings put on the window sill on Christmas eve. It’s funny to say that I learned only about the reality of Santa Claus when I was already in High School. I started suspecting that Santa wasn’t real when I realized that the handwriting on the gift wrappers looked exactly like my  Mom’s. And she laughingly admitted it to me when I asked her about it. But the secret remained between us  and we continued the tradition with my younger siblings and later on, with my own kids.

As I grew older, thinking about Christmas meant looking forward to being with my family because it was only at Christmas time and in summer that I get to go home from Manila for a span of  six years – 4 years for school  and 2 years for work at my Alma Mater,  Harris Memorial College. Back then,  home was what  I dreamt when December came.

As an adult,  Christmas has taken on a new meaning. To me,  Christmas is about “Emmanuel”, God with us. Christmas is about Jesus, the Reason for the season.

For  this year’s  Christmas message, I would like us to focus on our Christmas dreams, on giving and on thanksgiving.

  • Of dreams

December is the culmination of 12 months of hoping, aspiring, toiling and dreaming. It’s when we are at the meeting point of the old year and the new. It’s a time to look back to what has happened in the past year. It’s a time to reckon on whether or not our New Year’s resolutions are fulfilled or if our dreams and aspirations came to fruition.

What are your dreams for December? New clothes, a new gadget perhaps or   something you have saved for, for yourself, a family gathering, a reunion with friends, maybe making someone happy by buying them a gift, or like me, a  dream to spend a “perfect Christmas” with my significant other (yes it will just be a dream this year because the pandemic has restricted my yearly visit to San Diego). But whatever your dreams for December are, I wish you will find its realization.

We have dreams for ourselves, for our children, for our parents, our friends. Or  we may  also have dreams for our country, for our suffering countrymen, for the world, for our leaders, for our church. I’m sure our common dream at this point is for a pandemic-free world.

And like me, I know you also have dreams for Aldersgate College and for our colleagues.

Jesus is the One who fulfills our dreams. 

  • Of giving

Did you realize that upon the birth of a child,  the first act performed is giving? Yes, because we say, “The mother gives birth to her baby.” We are all recipients of that act of giving as soon as we were born.

I learned early on that giving is something we do that makes us think of the other person before ourselves. My Mom used to tell us that when you give, give something that has the same quality of what you wish to receive.

And she would instruct us to give the shinier or newer coin or the crispier bill at the offering plate, because you must give to the Lord what is best. I grew up in a culture of  “Sunday best”, referring to a person’s best clothes, worn to church or on special occasions. Back in the day, we didn’t talk about casual dresses, or semi-formal or formal clothes. During our time, we would say, “Let’s wear our Sunday best during the program.”

Christmas is about God’s love. It is what John 3:16 is all about. God so loved us that He GAVE His only Son. The essence of Christmas is giving.  Giving is the manifestation of love. As they say, we can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.

Christmas is the time to remember the great love of our Heavenly Father who gave Himself to us by being born into the world.

The Magi likewise showed us an example of giving through their gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense to the newborn Jesus on that first Christmas day.

I recently read a story shared by Hollywood icon Katherine Hepburn about the value of giving.

Let me read her story:

“Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus.

Finally, there was only one other family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me.

There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. The way they were dressed, you could tell they didn’t have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean.

The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. By their excitement, you could sense they had never been to the circus before. It would be a highlight of their lives.

The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re my knight in shining armour.” He was smiling and enjoying seeing his family happy.

The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted? He proudly responded, “I’d like to buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets, so I can take my family to the circus.” The ticket lady stated the price.

The man’s wife let go of his hand, her head dropped, the man’s lip began to quiver. Then he leaned a little closer and asked, “How much did you say?” The ticket lady again stated the price.

The man didn’t have enough money. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus?

Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.”

The man understood what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation.

He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied; “Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.”

My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 that my dad gave away is what we were going to buy our own tickets with.

Although we didn’t get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide. That day I learnt the value of giving.” (End of story)

The Giver is bigger than the Receiver. It is  because when we give, we give away a part of ourselves. The mother who gives birth gives a part of herself to the child. And because  God gave us Jesus, there is a part of us that is divine, which explains why there is good in us, despite our being natural sinners.

As I have emphasized in our past Christmas programs, the tradition of exchanging gifts should be taken as an experience of sharing what we know is best for the recipient. Our giving must go beyond the limits of the cost of the gift, or giving for the sake of fulfilling a tradition. The idea of the “wish list” is to see what other people want or need so that we can customize our presents accordingly. And I am really touched that there are some of us who listed things, not for themselves, but for somebody else. Isn’t that a manifestation of sacrifice, which is exactly the essence of giving?

  • Of thanksgiving

Christmas is a time of Thanksgiving. It is a time of  acknowledging that we are recipients of blessings everyday of our lives.

God gave us Jesus as the gift and blesses us in many different ways. Therefore, He is  the only One worthy of our praise and thanksgiving.

Part of a sermon I heard many years ago says, “Be thankful for the good, in spite of the bad.”  We should not only be thankful during the good times. We must also learn to see the good in spite of the bad. Again, let me quote from the song, “Look for the beautiful”

          “Look for the beautiful, look for the true

          And God and the bautiful will dwell with you”

What touched me most in the sermon of Pastor Rose during our morning watch service was “God doesn’t change regardless of our circumsances”. I am guilty of sometimes feeling that God’s love for me is diminished when things go wrong. That sermon reminded me that God’s love is constant. He loves me, inspite of who I am, in spite of my circumstances and that I can trust Him on that. For this I am thankful.

This Christmas, let us resolve to maintain an attitude of gratitude, both to God and to others. Making a habit of expressing gratitude and finding things to be thankful for help to rewire our  brain to be proficient at recognizing the good in our lives. Regardless of what’s happening, regardless of Covid 19, regardless of storms that come, we can thank God for His presence. And when we do, we rise above the situation when we purposefully look for what God is doing in the midst of it.

Gratitude should impact not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with other people. Let us make gratitude a part of our interactions with other people. Let us make  it a regular practice to say thank you to people in our life. It is sad to note that,  the people we express gratitude the least in our lives are those the closest to us. We forget to acknowledge the little things our loved ones do because we are so accustomed to them.

Thankfulness is a habit that is learned until it becomes a part of us.


This Christmas let us continue to dream and ask God to help us fulfill them. Let us give, not grudgingly but joyfully and let us be thankful