By: Gunther Fiek

Posted by: Bob Chatelle

Christmas came and is now gone. Or is it? For some, Christmas is a special day of the year and, for others, is a season we celebrate with the highlight being the 25th. It’s an occasion we look forward to. Many around the world may celebrate Christmas in their own way, maybe following a family or cultural tradition. No doubt, it is a time in which families and friends get together for a meal and exchanges of gifts. It is also an opportunity in which many businesses expect big earnings. One thing is for sure, whatever may be one’s view of Christmas, over the course of many years it has gradually been losing its true meaning and purpose. That reality is something that I was already experiencing even before my incarceration but, since then, it has become more clearer to me.

In the weeks that led into Christmas day … or eve, every time I called home and talked to my mom, she would share about the family’s plan for Christmas eve and what she still had to do before then. As the days got closer and closer, she would be in panic mode because she didn’t know what gifts to get so and so. My phone calls to her turned more into a way for her to vent out her frustrations. She wanted to make sure she would get gifts that certain family members and friends would want or enjoy. I remember those days and they can certainly become more of a headache than anything else.

Amid all the chaos that the holidays can bring to many as they prepared for the gathering of loved ones for a Christmas eve dinner or maybe a brunch the next day, it just seems that people no longer have or reserve the time to stop what they are doing, even for a few minutes, and reflect for a moment in what Christmas is all about — or should be. The season is about preparing ourselves for the day that gave humanity a purpose and hope — the birth of Christ — and the celebration of what ensued with His birth. Needless to say, I’m not here to appease anyone because there are many who may or may not share my views or beliefs. So I’m not getting into religious discussion concerning the divinity of Jesus or the fact that his birth really happened and what it meant and brought to the world. What I share with my posts is about who I am, my deep convictions concerning my faith and how I view the world from within this place I now find myself in. Nonetheless, the fact is, that in some countries around the world, as in the US, commercialism is what keeps Christmas alive — for the most part. And it saddens me.

A few weeks ago, the priest said something during his homily, sermon, to us that revealed something very true. As he was visiting another prison, he asked the inmates that had gathered to celebrate mass a question: “What is Christmas like in prison?” And he said the inmates’ simple answer was: nothing. No signs of Christmas. Then he told us what he said to them: “This is the opportunity for [us] to celebrate the real Christmas, stripped of all the paints and colors we add to it.” We all nodded in agreement. We understood — I understood. How true that statement was. I’ve been experiencing Christmas in the way the priest described for the last few years. Away from all the distractions, the trees and colored balls, candy sticks, and all the glittering in which we traditionally decorate our homes … and businesses.

This year, however, felt different than any of the previous ones. As someone with deep beliefs, as a Christian, I immersed myself more deeply into this year’s Christmas season. More than before. With the four weeks of Advent, I prepared myself for Christ — Christmas day — with daily readings and meditations and I continue to celebrate the joy and glory of His birth until January 9, which the Church traditionally celebrates Christ’s Baptism. In spite of this, Christmas Eve and Christmas day was more profound — it had more meaning. I reckon it is because I feel a growth in faith as I have gotten deeper into a religious or spiritual life.

Indeed, family and friends gatherings take place on different occasions whether it may be a birthday, anniversary … you name it. If you take away the meaning of Christmas then it just becomes another opportunity to get together no different than the ones I’ve mentioned. But there is a difference. No other time of the year has the power in dozens of ways to bring the warmth we experience toward family and neighbors — nothing brings us together as Christmas does. And that power is the love that God brought to this world with Christ. God IS love. And if He wouldn’t have shown His love for us over 2000 years ago, the world wouldn’t have Christmas at all … or even the commercialism of it.