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As I Know It (Elpidio Estioko): Let’s extend love, hope and joy on Christmas!

Let’s make the spirit of Christmas more meaningful and truthful this time… if we missed this goal last year, this is the time to make up!

It’s time to rejoice and spend the true meaning of Christmas with our love ones, friends and relatives.

Let’s make it more meaningful this time because while the true meaning of Christmas is about Jesus Christ’s birth and life, what it really means is about us, the way we celebrate it, the way we spend our life… every day, not only during Christmas time, but… daily, the way Jesus Christ wants us to do!

Yes, it’s in us, even when the world or our situations change – the message of Christmas is about the birth of God’s Son – Jesus… it is timeless, it remains the same. It is about how he came to give us love, hope and joy and that message doesn’t change from year to year, yes, even when there is so much bad news and devastation in the world. In fact, it should be good news worth celebrating… despite the Russia-Ukraine and the Israeli-Hamas wars!

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, it reflects on what we are doing and how we are internalizing His life and teachings in real life among ourselves, our families, relatives, friends, and acquaintances must be synchronized. It’s how we live our lives in the name of Jesus… on how we give love, hope and joy with each other – with our family, our friends, our relatives, even if it’s just a mere acquaintance or chance meeting, just like what the Good Samaritan did – this is what it counts.

While we are doing that, let us not forget that Jesus’ birth and life is a message of companionship… it means we are never alone. It doesn’t matter how difficult or hopeless our situation may appear to be, God is there for us. He walks with us! We don’t have to journey through our challenges and struggle alone. He understands them. He walks them alongside us. (https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/christmas/stories/what-is-the-true-meaning-of-christmas/)

As I See It, this message of His birth and life… gives us comfort and great joy to celebrate at Christmas. As the angel said to a group of shepherds on the night Jesus was born, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke chapter 2: verse 10, NIV Bible). It is one of the most well-known Bible verses about Christmas I learned as a child, born with religious parents, because it is such an encouraging and inspiring message. It is one of joy – because Jesus comforts and encourages us. One of hope – because we are never alone; God is always with us. And one of inclusivity – because it is for all of us.

This year, my family is celebrating it differently compared to last year, as there is a change of venue. Unlike last year where my children spent their Christmas with us in our Milpitas home in California, we will instead go to them and celebrate Christmas with them in South Carolina and Florida.

We, my wife Delia, daughter May with his boyfriend Steve, and son Jayson, will be flying from our Milpitas residence to South Carolina where we will be spending Christmas with my daughter Tweety, her husband Jonathan and their 3-year-old daughter Ellie. We will be joined by our son Jojo from Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Alvi and daughters Bibay and Kayla. During our celebration, we will be joined via Zoom by our eldest daughter Gigi from Sydney, Australia with her husband Eric, and our youngest child Paul who is in Kapolei, Hawaii. It will be fun, as we used to do every year, having family bonding despite our distance and physical boundaries which we have always overcome to be together in the spirit of Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas with my family and friends is an opportunity to pause and give thanks for the hope and joy found in Jesus – our friend and savior. It is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ more than just a Christian holiday or Christian festival, and more than an occasion to decorate our houses and putting up the Christmas tree with many gifts under it. It’s beyond that!

As we exchange gifts, it is out of remembrance of the gift God gave us in Jesus, regardless of the value or amount of the gift. It is not the gift but the art of giving, the gift that we are loved, are never alone and can have hope for the future… that matters.

After Christmas, we will be driving from South Carolina to New York and continue our Christmas bonding with some relatives and friends in the area. Then after three days stay in New York and suburbs, we are driving back to South Carolina and get ready to fly back to California on December 31 to be able to spend New Year at home.

Our Christmas this year looked different compared to last year, but the enjoyment of the true meaning of Christmas is the same, in fact, more enhanced and more meaningful… even with the change of venue.

We blended religious and secular customs with our family traditions, incorporating food and decorations. Christmas dinner included the traditional pansit (noodles)bibingka, puto, suman, ham, spaghetti, roast pork, salad, egg rolls, lumpia, calamari… and my wife made sure we had 12 rounded fruits, as a tradition in the family.

Merry Christmas to all!