China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2004/Dec
The Meaning of Christmas
For this Christmas issue of China Bridge, six young people – four seminarians from the Holy Spirit Seminary, one sister from Hebei Province and one young woman who works in curriculum development at the seminary – were asked to tell us something of what Christmas means for them.
Sister Chau said to us, “Girls, since you will be baptised at Easter, you’ll need to have a new name, a Christian name. Here are some suggestions: Agnes, Bernadette, Catherine ….” One by one I read the names of the saints on the list. “Sister Chau, all these names are very nice, but…” I read on, “Cecilia, Domenica, Emmanuel. Emmanuel,” I exclaimed proudly, “God is with me!” Kind, tolerant and patient, Sister Chau said to me, smiling, “It is God who is with US!” “Emmanuel! Thank you Sister, I’ll take this one.”
That was how I got my Christian name. This might seem to be only a simple story, but it has always been my firm conviction that God had a special message for me in it: Faith is the most precious gift in my life. Yet it is not a gift for me alone, it is a gift to be shared with others. When the Word became flesh, he tented among us, i.e., among all of humanity. It is not only the responsibility, but also the privilege of every Christian to spread the Gospel so that everyone in the world will come to know that God is with them.
Since my baptism, whenever I read Mt 1:23, I am reminded of the very mission I have been entrusted with. This is especially true at Christmas time.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are sending Christmas greetings and gifts to our friends, let us not forget to send them also the gift of faith.
God is not only with me, but also with you; God is with us.
Martin Ip (seminarian)
I don’t remember when I received my first Christmas gift. In primary school, I was interested in the robot model in a Japanese cartoon. My family’s economic condition was not very good. The whole family depended totally on my father for our livelihood, I could only get the robot model for New Year’s although I had wanted it badly for Christmas.
In Form Five I became interested in classical music. Musical cassettes replaced my model robot as a favourite Christmas gift. I received my first music cassette at Christmas from my previous English tutor, Father Vittorio Grioni, PIME, who introduced me to classical music. I used to study English in his home. While he explained the errors in my English composition, he would give me lemon tea; cakes and biscuits were always available and his cassette player was often playing classical music.
Swimming is one of my favourite sports. During the summer, I can spend a whole day on the beach. In winter, flippers are not seasonal goods in Hong Kong, but I could buy them more cheaply then, so the first Christmas gift I bought for myself was a pair of flippers.
When I started to work, I didn’t wish to buy anything for myself at Christmas; I could buy what I wanted anytime. So my tastes changed. I worked in the hotel industry and Christmas is high season in the hotel business, so every Christmas I had to be on shift. My best Christmas gift now is a holiday.
This year will mark my seventh Christmas at the Holy Spirit Seminary. My desire today is different. I want to enjoy Christmas with my family. A wonderful gift for me would be to be able to attend midnight Mass with my family. I think my wish will soon come true. After my ordination, I know my family will join me yearly as I celebrate the Christmas midnight Mass.
Aloysius Mak (seminarian)
Christmas is a wonderful feast all over the world. People celebrate Christmas in many different ways. Some enjoy a big Christmas party, some decorate their homes, still others attend Christmas Mass either at midnight or in the morning.
Christmas has had different meanings at different stages in my life. When I was young, Christmas brought me lots of joy because my parents gave me presents. When I was in secondary school, Christmas had a new meaning; it meant freedom, because I could now go out with my friends on Christmas Eve. Today, Christmas again has a new meaning. As a seminarian I feel God is asking me to witness to the love he has shown us in giving us his only Son, Jesus Christ. Christmas is a reminder that God’s love is total.
During the last ten years, I have spent most of Christmas in church. As an altar server, I usually attend midnight Mass. This gives me great joy! Besides, most of the altar servers spend the rest of the night together enjoying a barbecue.
When I was a child, I would receive toys for Christmas. Now that I am older, toys don’t have the same meaning for me. The gifts that I treasure most are health, my faith and my freedom of speech. This year, I am also grateful that here in Hong Kong, I don’t have to fear war or terrorist attacks daily. That is a wonderful Christmas present for which I am grateful to God. There is one more present I would like to have for Christmas: world peace! This would be a wonderful Christmas gift for people all over the world.
Joseph Liu (seminarian)
Until I came to the Holy Spirit Seminary, I was a choir member at St. Alfred’s Church, Shatin. Each Year at Christmas, we would practice many Christmas carols. We would sing, Joy to the World, Silent Night, O Holy Night and other songs. I like Christmas carols very much, they give me a warm feeling of peace and joy. We not only sang the carols in our church, we also went to hospitals, to plazas, to the MTR stations. Many people would stop to listen to us. This made me happy because our singing made other people happy. Our carols also helped people received the Good News of the birth of Jesus, Our Saviour.
I have spent every Christmas of my life in Hong Kong. It never snows in Hong Kong. I have a dream that some day, someone will give me an air ticket to go to a place that has snow at Christmas. Like the famous song, I am dreaming of a White Christmas. I would even like to make a snowman! That would be a great Christmas!
Michael Tham (seminarian)
Everyone remembers some wonderful and happy Christmas moments from their childhood. Children’s happy moments are often related to a big piece of cake, a special candy bar, or a toy. For someone, like me, it is also a holiday time allowing us time to catch up on homework.
When we really think about Christmas, however, we remember a little boy that long, long ago came into this world and changed a lot of things. For us, Christians, that little boy represents more than hope and joy at this special time of year. In other words, this little boy is not only important during the commercial Christmas season, but this season is an invitation for us to open our hearts to this Child every day of our lives.
Sister Francis Xie of Hebei, China
Some time ago, they were fighting and quarrelling. Today, they are a happy couple. How did this change come about?
Both the husband and wife were orphans. They came together because they felt no one loved them and they could perhaps help each other. After they got married, however, they still felt lonely, homeless and hopeless. The husband thought of divorce and the wife thought of suicide. But she loved her daughter too much and could not do it.
One day, the young wife came to the church and confided her problem to Sister Theresa who said to her, “If you really love your daughter, you also must have the courage to face your situation. When you got married, both you and your husband promised to love each other. You did not keep your promise. Can you tell me what love is?” The woman could not answer. “Love is self-giving and sacrifice,” said Sister Theresa. “God is love and God loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son, Jesus as a gift. During Christmas, we are reminded of this wonderful gift. Christmas is a season of gift-giving. No matter how poor you are, you can give your husband and daughter a gift; the gift of your smile.”
Some time later the young woman came back to the church, this time with her husband. Both were smiling. She said, “Sister. I now feel that I can face my situation. Love is the key! Even very simple people like us can enjoy peace and make a difference if we love.”