Christmas in lockdown can have ‘unexpected gifts,’ Winnipeg pastor says

How can there be no Christmas for Filipinos like me who start Christmas when the “ber” months arrive? 

Yes, as early as September in the Philippines, we start hearing Christmas carols on the airwaves, we begin filling our homes with Christmas decorations, as we are known to have the longest holiday season.  

Our Filipino hearts are Christmas crazy, and I am pretty sure Pinoys here in Manitoba and in other provinces in Canada share that same feeling.

And then my mind wanders to my son and his family in the US, and his two younger brothers in the Philippines. How will our Christmas 2020 will be? This pandemic brought down our dream of a family reunion, after years of being away from each other. 

‘This light of blessing and hope is what this Christmas brings,’ Reverend Noel Suministrado says. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Family traditions are significant for us, and so for now, we skip this customary family get together for Noche Buena, which is a midnight dinner on Christmas Eve.

But for sure, we will have the pancit (noodles), lumpia (spring rolls), suman (glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves) and puto (rice cakes) here in Winnipeg.  

For now, our manito manita (exchange gifts) will have to wait and we will just show our gift boxes in a Zoom meeting!

And this goes too with the congregation of Broadway Disciples United Church, which is now predominantly Filipino. The scenario I described above will likely play out in most of our families and community.

We will be missing the Christmas Eve church service, the annual church choir Christmas cheer carols in nursing homes, and yes, Christmas parties that spell food and fun!

I am asking myself: is there something for us that can somehow be a reason for the season? 

The darkest part of the night is the moment just before the morning light of sunrise.– Rev. Noel Suministrado

Is there a redemptive aspect to this pandemic, morbid as it may sound? 

We have been so used to something that is so familiar during holiday season, year after year, and now our expectations are reversed. 

WATCH | Reverend Suministrado on celebrating the season without gatherings:

Broadway Disciplines United Church Reverend Noel Suministrado shares his message of hope in this holiday season, with some Filipino Manitoba love mixed in. 4:14

But can this reversal bring some unexpected gifts? 

Like, for example, being spared of the mad rush to the malls for last-minute shopping, going out and bingeing, late night parties till one drops, that leave us more distressed after Christmas day. 

Could this be a blessing in disguise?

There is a ray of hope coming through.– Rev. Noel Suministrado

Instead of the dreary thought of being alone and isolated, spending the holiday in another mode — that is virtual — with family and friends, is gifting us with the time to reconnect, recollect and reminisce. 

Reverend Noel Suminstrado misses large gatherings of worship, but says the solitude ‘allows us to personally reflect and celebrate Christmas in a novel way.’ (Jaison Empson/CBC)

It allows us to personally reflect and celebrate Christmas in a novel way and maybe discover something that we have been missing in all those years. Like it or not, after this pandemic is gone, our lives will be different, and I dream and wish that the lessons of Christmas in the time of pandemic will not be forgotten.

Yes, despite our predicament we have now — isolation, despair, and darkness — there is a ray of hope coming through. 

‘We have not yet changed our church signage,’ Reverend Noel Suministrado says. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

My grandmother used to say that the darkest part of the night is the moment just before the morning light of sunrise begins. 

This light of blessing and hope is what this Christmas brings. Blessings, unexpected and undeserved, that are unwrapped each day in the midst of this pandemic, are to be shared.

We have not yet changed our church signage on Broadway Avenue : YOU ARE BLESSED, BE A BLESSING.


CBC’s Message of Hope is a series for Manitobans to share insights into keeping the faith and finding the hope during the challenges of the pandemic.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.

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