12/18/2008

Door Knockers on Christmas



Christmas is almost here. Capiz parols are brightly shining.

And one thing is bothering me. Medicants are ringing our doorbell and knocking at our gate, singing a line from a Christmas carol and yelling "Merry Christmas," asking for alms. Some don't even bother singing at all. They just incessantly ring the doorbell till they get a response. If there is no response, they exclaim in loud voices, "Hey, Merry Christmas!"

They're the rough, serious version of "trick or treat."

I am ambivalent about this: whether to give cash or a gift or a goodie; or simply ignore them; or report them to the police for invasion of privacy. Moving to a gated community or an exclusive enclave is not a viable option.

Last Christmas and the other Christmases before that, we gave goodies to the first knocker on our door and in minutes, more knockers flocked to our gate. Every knocker in all the slum areas of surrounding neighborhoods suddenly descended upon us—every single hour, and every single day till the New Year.

The security guard simply scratches his head when admonished about allowing people "caroling." He mutters sheepishly, "Ma'am," it is Christmas."

Our speaker in last Sunday's worship service adds to my ambivalence. He asked, "Would a millionaire from Forbes Park give up everything for a lazy beggar in Payatas (a very poor area in Manila)? He wouldn't. Nobody would. No millionaire would part with anything he owns for someone so undeserving. But two thousand years ago, Someone did. He who owns the world shed His blood and gave up everything—including his life—to sinful people on earth.

"That Someone taught us what love is all about. It is that love which we celebrate at Christmas.”

What's a measly sum to give to door knockers? What's a small gift to hand out to beggars? What's a small smile to mask our annoyance?

I have no energy or enough gray matter to intellectualize or argue the point. But two thousand years ago, people didn't ask for favors. They didn't go knocking at heaven's door, asking for God's love.

God loved us first, and it was totally and purely out of this love for us that He chose to become poor, so that through his poverty, we might become rich.

So how do we emulate God's love on Christmas? By turning away door knockers? And in so doing, we tell them that they shouldn't make Christmas an excuse to extort and blackmail people into giving as the God of love did?

"Enrich others this Christmas," our speaker ended his talk, "give to someone undeserving."

I am asking for extra grace to do that, as I now hear yet another ringing of our doorbell, with yet another irreverent shout of "Merry Christmas!"    


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