Christmas is just around the bend. With just six days remaining, many of us would be preoccupied with parties, shopping, planning, travelling, and other things. Somehow, December 25 has became a temporary portal to another world. Everything is different. There are lights everywhere. Sprawling christmas trees with gifts are common sight. Men dressed in red garment and beard can be found in malls and street corners giving out a silly laugh (although there’s really nothing funny at all). The ordinary has been transformed. But is this kind of tranformation God intended Christmas would effect on mankind?
The apostle Paul meditated on the mystery of Christmas and wrote it to a young Christian church in the first century. We might be shocked to find out that its meaning has made a dramatic turn in our time. Well, it did not happen overnight. Through time, the meaning of Christmas has been vagued slowly with other things we add to it. What does Paul have to say? He said: In the fullness of time, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law; that we might have the full rights of sons. Galatians 4:4-5. For Paul, Christmas is God’s greatest plan being carried out. This plan has a purpose — salvation of man. And this plan has been initiated by giving. God gave first. This is the essence of Christmas: God gave his Son.
Now let us examine what we practice during Christmas against what Paul had in mind. Particularly, let us focus on the practice of exchange gifts during Christmas parties; yes, even parties at church!
- To be a participant in the Exchange Gifts (will be shortened to EG from here on), you have to have your own gift. No gift, no part in EG.
- The gift has a floor price. Your gift must be above that floor price, say fifty pesos (~$1). Below that, you are kuripot; above that, you are galante.
- Then there will ba a sabunutan (drawing of lots) in the EG to determine who gets what.
- Then the participants in the EG can open their gifts while those yagit (who cannot afford the floor price and so forfeited themselves the chance to be a part of EG) can watch them.
- Then comes the reactions:
- Exhillirated: they liked their gift or got more than what they gave away (ganansya sa puhunan).
- Exasperated: dismayed by their gift or got less than what they gave away (lugi; tangay pati puhunan).
- Ex-nihillated: They rejoice out-of-nothing i.e., ex-nihilo. They rejoice over their invisible gift; since they were ex-cluded in the EG.
Now that we have described Exchange Gifts, I would leave the next step to you, my dear reader. And my hope is that you will realize what this activity really does and what message it proclaims.