(Bradly Rozairo, OMI) -Every year around this time the whole world gets ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We in Japan also remember Christmas when it enters the cold season and celebrate it as a festival.
How do you celebrate Christmas?
Some people buy expensive gifts and exchange them at Christmas; others make Christmas cakes and eat with their family and friends; some decorate their house with illumination and Christmas trees. People celebrate Christmas in different ways. For me, Christmas is a time to do some charity or show an act of kindness. I would like to share with you my experience of Christmas.
My country, Sri Lanka, was experiencing ethnic war. As peace negotiations were underway, people were running for safety. At one time, the President of Sri Lanka approached India and invited its neighbor to help maintain peace and order in Sri Lanka. The Indian government sent soldiers in response to that wish. My home town, Trincomalee, was also affected by the war. There were camps of Indian soldiers in the area, and we could see them every day. Going out at night was prohibited because there was a curfew imposed until the next morning. Sometimes due to power failure, we had to spend some nights in the dark. These were very scary moments for us because when it is pitch dark it is easy for the terrorists to carry out an attack.
In this atmosphere, my parish church was getting ready to celebrate Christmas mid-night mass! Some parishioners who live far away from the church usually walk to attend mass, but this was very dangerous especially at night. My parish priest (an Oblate) thinking about the safety of the people decided to meet the Commander in charge of the camp to get special permission to have the mid-night mass and to provide security for the people. The Indian commander replied very positively to the request of the priest saying, “It’s a special night, we will cooperate”! That night there were soldiers out in the streets to escort people coming to church to attend Christmas midnight mass. The church was packed with joyful people. During mass, I noticed soldiers guarding the church and walking around the premises. God had sent these soldiers to protect us on Christmas night, and through them, we were able to experience the true meaning of Christ coming to this world.
Let me also share with you what happened on Christmas morning. In our village, we usually bake cakes and wear new clothes to celebrate Christmas with our families and relatives. But for people living in the war-zone, Christmas was a distant reality. The Indian soldiers knowing our situation decided to make a stage outside the church. They decorated the place and distributed rations to people who had nothing to eat. Rice and some vegetables were distributed to them as Christmas presents.
This very gesture of the soldiers made the poor very happy. At least on Christmas day, they could have fairly a good meal.
The generosity and kindness of the soldiers were very much appreciated by everyone in the village and they thanked the soldiers for bringing them joy on Christmas day.