As Christmas draws near, for some of us it is a sigh of relief and for others a gasp of horror. Where has the year gone? Isn’t it scary. For me, it is neither a sigh nor a gasp. Instead I laugh. Otherwise I will cry. Christmas is a season of sadness for many. The homeless, the dispossessed and the poor and needy. When I was doing my research for my doctorate, I remember spending a whole Christmas in a mental hospital. During that Christmas, I discovered the sadness of Christmas for many. More patients attempted suicide at Christmas than at any other time of the year.
While Christmas is a time of joy because the Son of God was born according to Christianity, many of us have forgotten this. Instead we spend Christmas madly shopping for presents and this onerous task, usually left till the last moment, is irritating and any love we have for the receiver is soon lost although temporarily by the hectic rush to simply get a present for the so and so. Is love so easily lost, you might ask. Love is not lost but it is certainly affected by stress.
And Christmas shopping is stressful! What then is love at Christmas time. Love as Christ has taught is unconditional and all forgiving. The message of love is always present in the new testament. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Jesus said: I command unto you that thou shalt love each other as I have loved you. Of all the things that I was taught in a mission school aeons ago, this message of love in Christ’s teachings is the most appealing to me since it shares the same meaning as our Confucianist concept of ren.
Ren defies literal translation into English. In its essence I believe that ren means the same thing as the love that Christ has taught. It is benevolence, human-ness, reciprocity and mutuality. It is all these, as various scholars have attempted to define ren. Underlying all these values lie the simple gesture of opening our hearts and letting our feelings for another human flow out. When another is touched by us in some small way, love is present.
So for this Christmas, if you feel sad, it is good. Sadness deepens the well of our hearts. In plunging into the depths of our feelings for others, our soul is moved. When that happens, Christmas is truly a spiritual experience. I wish all of you, dear friends and students, many more Christmases to come. Drive safe, eat and drink sparingly. I will send love and light to all of you and we will meet in the new year.
As Christmas is a time to remember loving others and ourselves, here are some words that I received from friends that I wish to share with all of you:
I’ve learned that you cannot make someone love you
All you can do is
Be someone who can be loved
The rest is up to them
I’ve learned that you should always leave
loved ones with loving words
It may be the last time you see them
I’ve learned that love begins when a person feels another
person’s need to be as important as his own
I’ve learnt that there are people who love you dearly
but just don’t know how to show it
I’ve learned that true friendship continues to grow
even over the longest distance
Same goes for love
I’ve learned love is not for me to keep
but to pass on to the next person I see.