In Khipro parish, Pakistan, we started our Christmas day celebration on December 13 - Photo: Elbert Balbastro
Christmas always brings joy in my life. As a child, I always looked forward to the coming of that day. However, as time progressed, I realized that Christmas does not only bring joy but also an attached message with it. It is God, conveying and reminding me of my journey as a missionary.
In Khipro parish, Pakistan, we started our Christmas day celebration on December 13, because of the need to cover every village that we have. The teachers, together with the students, joined hands in making a program after the Holy Mass. A majority of them made a drama portraying the annunciation scene up to the birth of Jesus Christ. Some sang and danced which further added to the colour of Christmas. The joy and participation of the villagers were contagious. Belo, one of the villages that we had visited, made a great impact on me. When we arrived at the place, the students, together with the teachers were awaiting our arrival. Once we stepped out of the car, the nativity scene was immediately acted out by a family.
The couple’s portrayal really captured the simplicity of the holy family, which helped me realize how important that is in the kind of life I chose. I realized that God doesn’t want extravagance on Christmas day; He would rather I follow the example of this couple. When they performed the scene, it felt like the real Nativity event that happened some 2000 years ago. It was indeed a meaningful experience for me.
In addition, as I reflected on that event, I asked myself, “What other messages does God want to convey to me?” I then realized that it is the virtue of faithfulness. The faithfulness of Mother Mary and Saint Joseph helped Jesus grow with love. It reminds me of my faith, vocation and the necessity of being steadfast in loving God and my neighbour.
Before we left, the son of the couple thanked me for visiting and bringing fun to the village. That message made me recognize the importance of visitation and enjoyment in this kind of ministry. Just like the presence of the three kings, the shepherd, angels and even the animals to Mama Mary and St. Joseph, a visit makes a tremendous impact to the community and is a very essential element of pastoral ministry here in Pakistan. As Christians, we can only say that Jesus loves the poor by practicing it. On the same note, fun or joy should be brought to others, not contained within ourselves. For me, the essence of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ, who is a good model in sharing joy because through him God’s love is shared.
Simplicity, faithfulness, generosity and the value of visitation are among the many messages that God shared with me during this Christmas season. It is indeed a blessing for me as well as a guide on my missionary journey as I embark on another new year.
Elbert Balbastro is a Filipino Columban Seminarian. He was assigned to Pakistan for his First Mission Assignment (FMA). He will be returning back in the Philippines to finish his studies.