And suddenly, it is December

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Time is too long for those who suffer, too short for those who enjoy. But for those who love, time is eternity. That is not my original line. I picked that up from some sage and poet and I truly believe in it. The title of this piece means that I am not really considering the pandemic as the worst of times. I am coping very well and enjoy being productive. It just jolted me, that before I knew it, it was now December.

And December means Christmas. A little more than three weeks from today, the whole Christendom will celebrate the happiest season of the year. And the pandemic has no power to derail or detract our attention on the preparations. We have already put up the Christmas tree and the decor, although they are old and recycled. What matters most is the spirit, the excitement and the sense of anticipation, the gifts have been wrapped and they are now carefully arranged under the Christmas tree. We are playing the Christmas songs and have started to write notes on the Christmas cards we have bought many years back in our trips to Hawaii and Washington. Christmas cannot be deferred, much less postponed.

We recall that in the not-too-distant past, we spent our Christmas Eve in Bethlehem where it all started. We were on our religious pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and we booked a hotel near the site of the Lord's birth so that we could just walk to the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem is ironically under the control of Muslims and Christianity is professed by a small minority next to Islamic and Jewish people. It is too cold there during Christmas because it is 775 meters above sea level, some 30 meters higher in elevation than the nearby city of Jerusalem in the north just 6.2 kilometers away, or much nearer than the distance between Cebu City and Talisay. When we went there the Palestinians were guarding the Church of the Nativity. It is also near Gaza, the Mediterranean Sea, and Amman, Jordan, and is 89 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. We enjoyed our praying, shopping, and strolling around on Christmas Day in 2015.

In 2016, we went to Hawaii and Washington, in a town south of Seattle, called Federal Way, and then to another town nearby called Pife, where five of my siblings reside. It was a beautiful Christmas as our relatives from Seattle, LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Hawaii came, and Christmas became a reunion of friends and relations. The seafood and fruits were abundant and cheap, and the weather was perfect, since the snow was not too much. We were singing songs and telling stories, drinking wine, and dancing. The children were busy with video games and Netflix and the older folks sipped tea and coffee. The husbands played chess and other board games. The wives cooked and baked, telling stories about actors, actresses, and politicians with all the latest scandals and shenanigans.

In 2017 and 2018 we just stayed in Manila and it was fun before COVID. There is no place like home and the best Christmas is always in the Philippines. But a client of mine brought us to Europe in 2019, a religious pilgrimage. We started in Portugal and from the capital we drove straight to Fatima. After three days, we had a very long land trip in a tourist bus to Barcelona. Spain. After we enjoyed the city, we crossed the mountain ranges and entered France directly to Lourdes. We stayed there for three days, then we headed to Paris, where for five days we savored Parisian cuisine, wines, museums, cathedrals, and castles. Then we crossed another border to Switzerland where we climbed up to the snowy mountain by cable car. Then to Italy where we went to Assisi, to Padre Pio. And then we spent Christmas in Rome, heard mass in St. Peter’s Square with the Pope presiding.

Today, the Lord wills that we stay here and enjoy Christmas in the simplest and perhaps the safest ways. Just like the first Christmas when what mattered most were peace, love, and happiness. Perhaps that is the better way. We will just have a separate party for our friends in Israel via Zoom, another for our friends in Europe, and our family and relatives in the US via digital platforms. Happy Holidays to one and all. Enjoy December.

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