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Christmas Bags of Hope
For it is in giving that we receive- Francis of Assisi
Many of life's precious gifts are birthed. Christmas is grace demonstrated with the babe Jesus born in a lowly manger. There are traditions carved by time, cultures, religious beliefs, and by families who want to hold on to what they value. It's my pleasure to share our family Christmas tradition, and how it is evolving.
Mom's Christmas Made Tradition
There's mama, our very own version of Martha Stewart, but more amazing. Imagine raising seven children hands on. The magician homemaker, mom ran our home like a highly paid company CEO, CFO, Ship Captain, name it! She was sharp and impeccable. No doubt, Christmas was her grandest production where she put all her talent to use. It's still hard to figure out where she drew strength, remain cool, glamorous, and still manage to create a spectacular and unforgettable family Christmas night. What a woman! What a giver! We felt the love and do we miss it so much.
I have no doubt that i love Christmas because of her. She poured herself to giving our family joy and happiness. What an awesome event planner! She didn't just decide on an intricate menu, she did all the cooking of each dish from scratch. She even had time to shop and get us gifts she knew we wanted. We were always surprised, for both parents spared nothing to give each child the best. A fashionista, she no less, expected us to look good wearing our holiday clothes she either bought or sewed. The highlight of the evening was when we were called to sit around the big long table to partake of a sumptuous and delicious signature dinner. Dad would say a thanksgivng prayer first, and as soon as he says Amen, was our signal to attack the most delightful food. Yum, yum, yum! A music loving family, Christmas carols played non stop, and we loved to sing along and dance. The meaning of Christmas was made real by loving parents, and we re-live it every year, like they are still with us.
This is why Christmas transforms me to sublime wonderment. Yes, no matter what is going on this this world, i am a totally different person come Christmastime. I'm aware that others will not understand this joyful insanity, and that's alright. I respect all religion, but i don't apologize for my belief, and i never hide how much i adore the Christ of my Christmas. To me, it is the most wonderful time of the year. It means celebrating family ties, blessings received, and acknowledging my personal faith in God. Our family Christmas tradition remains strong, a legacy we will pass on from generation to generation.
Yet, we change, and the world around us is changing. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye when people are hurting, hungry and dying from hopelessness.
Which brings me to share the birthing of a new family tradition.
Giftbags of Hope
It's been several years since my daughter shared her thoughts, and wish to do something for the streetchildren of Manila. It was a confirmation of my own desire to put my faith into action. Going to church has allowed us to listen to sermons for our edification, pray and fellowship with others, and to serve in ministries of our choice. But, there came a point when it was time to take things further, and step into uncharted places. This led to the birthing of an outreach to bring hope to a growing population of streetchildren.
Sadly, there is a serious divide in the Philippines, between the rich and the poor. This situation is not made easy especially during Christmas when this difference becomes more obvious. The priviledged go into a frenzy of partying, shopping,and preparing for the big Christmas dinner called "Noche Buena". The entire metropolis is lit up to signify the message of joy to the world. But, this is unreal to many families who live like rats, in their makeshift homes. There is no hope and they feel no love.
So, every year, in some litlle way, we make Christmas bags, and ship boxes of used clothes donated by kindhearted friend. We mobilize members of our family, and their friends, to help us distribute to hundreds of families, and streekids. We share the blessings of food, and a message of hope, praying that this act of kindness during Christmas will make a difference. The smiles we have seen gives us a glimmer of something good. In touching their lives, they have changed ours. Because they know someone cared, they see the world is not so bad after all. They can dream. There is hope.
So, as we approach Christmas, and enjoy the gift of abundance, let's think about the world around us.
To borrow William Bourn's credo: FiLoLi (The name of his garden estate i visited recently)
"Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life."
My special thanks go to the young "Marthas" in our family, and numerous dear friends who share the love and true meaning of Christmas, where it counts.