By Fr. Robert Cimagala

THERE’S REALLY no question about Christmas being able to survive. It will, whether in good times or in bad. In fact, I think the bad times will make Christmas surface its true nature and spirit better than the good times. They can be a blessing in disguise.

The problem is how people are taking the drastic changes that seem to accompany this year’s economically challenged Christmas. What we really have to do is just to stay calm, and learn our precious if abject lessons.

Our problem is that we seem to be so obsessed with the cool, easy and heavily sentimental feel of Christmas that we have forgotten what Christmas is all about. Its external and commercial aspects have drained the true substance of Christmas.

Just take a quick look at the crop of Christmas songs and gimmicks lately. They seem to be meant to make us feel good only. They hardly lead us to pray. They don’t nourish our faith. They don’t improve our knowledge and love for Christ. To make sacrifices is rendered taboo.

We now have many generations of people for whom Christ has become a stranger to Christmas. The connection between Christ and Christmas has been broken, a result of an unchecked errant socio-cultural drift.

The phenomenon calls to mind to images. One, a structure that has become so top-heavy there is no other way but for it to collapse. Or, two, a balloon that has become so bloated and flighty that it gets detached from its foundation.

It’s about time, I think, that some deep correction be made. We should not be surprised that we have some disconcerting developments enveloping our Christmas this year. We have been building up these developments for years. The current crisis was just a matter of time.

If the correction is not done by us, then circumstances will make sure we get back to the original meaning of Christmas. That’s how I see the dramatic changes taking place now. That’s part of God’s providence. And the correction, the healing, will always involve pain.

These past few days, I and, I suppose, many others have been forced to revisit economic concepts and financial terms I have long ago left behind. Bailouts, layoffs, recession, bankruptcy, hedge fund, Ponzi scheme, etc. are making the top of the list in people’s vocabulary these days.

If only for this development alone, I think we already have benefited something substantial from the current global crisis. It has introduced us to the intricacies of the world of economics and finance that are now getting more complicated and sophisticated.

We need to get better acquainted with these realities, so we can improve our stewardship over them. I don’t think it’s part of the Christmas spirit to cling to the ancient order of things. What is essential to Christmas is for our heart to be firmly anchored on Christ even as we flow with the times.

And to be firmly rooted in Christ means to be good, simple and austere, honest, prudent. It means to have a spreading sense of justice and solidarity, a clear idea of the common good.

It means to fight against greed and deception, the temptation to dominate others, to be vain and given to purely worldly values. It is averse to self-enrichment at the expense of others.

It does not mean to be naïve, to stick to one rigid way of doing things, or to one unchangeable world order. In fact, it is open to anything. It delights in changes and progress. It respects and fosters variety of opinions and positions in our temporal affairs as long as they enrich our unity.

The only thing necessary is that everything be done with Christ and for Christ. His will and commandments should be followed. And achieving this goal will always entail sacrifice. Are we ready to face this challenge?

Unfortunately, this is the element that’s often forgotten or ignored these days. People fail to see the importance and relevance of Christ in their business. They don’t know how to relate Christ to their human affairs.

Christmas invites us to allow Christ to truly be born in us. That’s its ultimate significance. Christ wants to come to us, for we are actually meant to be with him. We need  to correspond to this loving invitation effectively.