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Joy And Lowliness Of Christmas

Christmas is a day of great joy, one in which the poor and lowly of the world are lifted up and become heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The newly canonized English saint, John Henry Newman, recognizes the richness of Christmas in two main traits which are also lessons we should learn from this feast – lowliness and joy. 

Newman goes on to explain these two lessons in light of a passage from Luke where the angels bring “good tidings of great joy” to the lowly shepherds.

Why should the heavenly beings appear to these shepherds? Were these shepherds learned, distinguished, or powerful? Were they especially known for piety and gifts?

There is nothing to show that they were holier and more enlightened than other good men of the time. Why then were they chosen? 

The answer is: God looks with a sort of special love upon the lowly. The angels appeared to them as if to show that God had chosen the poor in this world to be heirs of His Kingdom. 

The second characteristic is that of joy, according to Newman. “Fear not,” said the angel, “for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” 

The Almighty God was impressively gracious to the lowly and the friendless by confiding the joyful secret of the birth of Christ to the shepherds keeping watch over their sheep by night. 

Christmas is a day of great joy, one in which the poor and lowly of the world are lifted up and become heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the great joy of Christmas, which all the world can partake in.

These two key features of the Christmas event are celebrated by peoples and cultures according to their creativity and faith. In the Philippines, for instance, the holy festivity is the longest in the world, spanning from September to January.  

The preparations and celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ have a unique Filipino style. Decorations, lights, parols, gigantic cribs, carolling, delicacies, Simbang Gabi or dawn masses, Noche Buena or the family dinner on Christmas Eve, are all but signs of the devotion, sensitivity and faith with which the Christmas feast is jubilantly celebrated. 

Nearly everyone participate in at least the beginning and the end of the nine-day dawn masses. Then, the Noche Buena ritual, preceded by the mass on Christmas Eve or Misa de Gallo, assembles all family members around the common table to share delicious food. 

Underneath the external symbols and rituals that beautify and lend a human touch to Christmas, there lies a message of  humility and joy. It is an invitation to rejoice at the exceptional love of God for the lowly to whom hope is announced. 

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