Killing our desire for Christmas

Published December 22, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.
Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote: “The best way to destroy an attraction is to develop another attraction.” Or, to put it another way, “The best way to kill a desire is to find a substitute for it.”

Ryan Cayabyab’s song describes how we have gradually abolished our desire for Christmas through substitution:

Heto na naman ‘yong masayang panahon
Ubas at mansanas na kahon-kahon
Said na ang bulsa pagod pa ang paa
Kahahanap ng regaling mura’t maganda.

Heto na naman ‘yong ganitong panahon
Kundi kalendaryo ay maalat na hamon
Wala na bang iba, fruit cake na luma
Exchange gift na diary, chocolate at sabon?

Wala na ba kundi panandaliang saya?
Wala naba kundi ako, ikaw at siya?
Nalilimutan natin kung bakit may Pasko
Isang nagmamaha lna Diyos ang isinilang sa mundo.

The song tells us that our craving, or even obsession, for the glittering come-ons of our consumerist society has killed our desire for Christmas. Christmas has been replaced by an orgy of buying and bargain hunting. We brave the horrible traffic and wade through overcrowded malls looking forgifts, decorations, clothes, food, toys, gadgets, and other commodities. Do we really desire these? No, we only want them because everyone else wants them.

We have also substituted for Christmas our self-imposed obligations, like wrapping and sending gifts, Christmas cards, selfies, and emails to relatives, friends, and acquaintances. We feel that Christmas is not complete without office parties, family reunions, and vacations. More often, these leave us physically dilapidated and almost financially bankrupt afterwards.

The first Christmas happened because God wanted to provoke our desire for Him. God became a human being simply because He wanted to be desired, to be needed, to be wanted, and above all, to be passionately loved. He wanted us to say, as David does in Psalm 16: “As the deer yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you my God.”  Or in Psalm 63: “O God, you are my God for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting, my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water.” The Simbang Gabi tradition is meant to enlarge that desire. The bigger the desire, the greater is our capacity to receive and experience Him.

But every year, we indulge in the same mindless activities that have replaced our desire to experience Jesus.  This process of substitution has become second nature to us and poses a lethal danger to our spirituality. John Eldredge writes: “Once you have lived so long in a certain place, no matter how dirty or ugly, you come to think of it as home.”

Pope Francis’ words are a good reminder to all of us during this Christmas: “We must experience a healthy unrest— to desire a higher, more profound good— and at the same time, to perceive with increasing clarity that nothing in this world can ever satisfy our desire for God.”