I was born on 25 December, Christmas Day.
In the years that followed, I grew up in a tumultuous environment marked by an unceasing yet unanswered prayer that my father will choose to come home and spend Christmas with us.
Years later, I understood this was more than a father’s choice to come home. It was about a child hoping that her father chose not to reject her – again and again.
As an adult, I understand what an absentee father does to a spirit of a child; I look at my son and know that my greatest responsibility in this lifetime is to help raise a potentially good father.
As a mother to a young boy, I only have a glimpse on the emotional tsunami that my mother had to go thru each passing year. I remain in awe of her strength and grace. Little did I know that it was excruciating for my mother to put up our trusty, old Christmas tree during the holidays. When were older and ready, she shared to us siblings that father decided to leave for good during the holidays.
As humans, I believe key moments and common days of celebration are of value; in spite of differences, we have windows of common threads of joy.
For some, these common moments are unfortunately marked by pain.
I have not physically lost someone during Christmas day.
What I am familiar is this - two decades, twenty Christmases of asking, hoping, and losing in both my birthday and Christmas day. What that does to a young heart is immeasurable and incomprehensible. Gladly, I have survived.
Last Christmas, I received a message from a friend. Reading the message felt like a hundred volcanoes erupting all at once, the heat and fire felt to the bones. His niece was sexually assaulted during Christmas day.
What happens to frail human hearts when these key celebratory moments are marked with pain?
Over 157 Filipinos have tragically lost their lives this December of 2017 due to what felt like unceasing fire in a mall in Davao City and in stubborn rains across the country.
While I have no way of fully empathizing and no right of recommending how to recover, I can feel their pain as if they were mine to bear. I am familiar with grief.
As a Christian in Christmas days such as these, I draw bravery from knowing that the ethos of Christmas is humility and not grandness, sacrifice and not demands, unconditional love and not self-centeredness. Most of all, the hope that there is a world beyond this, where pain is no longer and where joy is inescapable.
Whilst I find wounds recurring in pain, scars demanding to be remembered, I reflect on the theology of the scars of Christmas – God personified who personally understands pain Himself so we can live even in pain. There is that glorious hope which came with a price and the price has been paid to the full.
I have spoken with survivors of sexual assault and as a survivor myself, there are no words which can assuage injustice and terror. This lost, like the loss of lives in the past weeks is also a loss of a personal novel of what-could-have-been and a personal universe of memories and dreams.
There is no way of recreating memories, playing life in backwards, or digging deeper to mask the pain.
But there is the gift of living each day, a fresh set of 24 hours; the gift of grieving because feeling grief is a gift; the gift of moving forward without forgetting because remembering makes you human - a good human; and then the gift of serving as the heart of Christmas has taught us so.