The last ChristmasBy Fr. Francis Ongkingco
“Dale!” Lawrence waved at his friend through the glass pane of the coffee shop he was in.
[DING! JINGLE! CLING!] The bells chimed as Dale entered the shop.
“Hi Lawrence,” he greeted him with a high-five in the air.
“Any progress with our English Christmas take-home?”
“Don’t even remind me,” Dale gave him a gaping yawn and slumped into the sofa.
“Coffee or somethin’?” Lawrence offered.
“I’ll need a real strong one to get me working on this.”
“Don’t worry, it’s on me this time,” Lawrence waved at the waiter.
“Yuh know, even though I thought this essay was going to ruin a great Christmas vacation for us, I realized that the topic was worth doodling about.”
“Really? So you’ve been giving it some thought after all?” Lawrence was surprised
“Well, yeah. I guess so,” Dale straightened himself up as the waiter served coffee and a cinnamon roll.
“Drink up first, that’ll get you going!”
“Hey, thanks dude. I didn’t even ask for my favorite roll.”
“Merry Christmas, Dale!”
“Shuthenk you, [MUNCH!]” he cut the roll a second time and it was gone. [SLUUURRRP] The coffee disappeared after three long sips.
“Sheesh, I knew you had the genes of a cow, dude. They ruminate things in their four stomach chambers…,”
“Heard that before [BURP!] ‘Scuse me,” Dale wiped his mouth with the napkin. “’Sides, I think we should get going with this essay before my creative juices run out.”
“You seem to have some interesting ideas, let’s hear them!”
“I thought it would be kindda sad to think that if the world ended on the 21st of December or sometime close, then I can’t help thinking how I would spend that last Christmas with Diana.”
“SOOOOO interestingly profffffound, DUDE!” Lawrence rolled his eyes and swayed his head in frustration. “For a while I thought that a free meal would get you going. And this is all that you’ve got? You’ve been with nothing in your head but DIANA, DIANA, DIANA.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong. You just saw her in Chemistry class.”
“So we’ve got chemistry coming here, dude!”
“Oh yeah? But you don’t even have Chemistry, Dale.”
“And you haven’t even introduced yourself and for all you know her name’s not even Diana.”
“Hey, leave the girl stuff to me, I’m the expert. ‘Sides, one FB click and she’s mine!”
[SIGH!] “Ok, let’s get to this now before another name pops up in your sponge head.”
“What about you? What’s your take of the ‘last Christmas’?”
“Well, recently I’ve been reading Pope Benedict XVI’s most recent book.”
“Oh, the one that said that there’s no Christmas?”
“He didn’t say that. He was only clarifying that some aspects of Christmas aren’t really read off from Scripture.”
“So the rest was just invented?”
“Not in a way that you invent names for girls you happen to have a crush on. What he meant was that these are results of the faithful’s devotion and piety. But this doesn’t really affect the true contents of our Creed.”
“Anyways, what did he say about the last Christmas?”
“I don’t’ think he said anything directly about it, but there’s that interesting point where he commented on the passage which says: ‘Mary wrapped the child in swaddling cloths’.”
“Here, let me read the exact words to you: ‘Without yielding to sentimentality, we may imagine with what great love Mary approached her hour and prepared for the birth of her child. Iconographic tradition has theologically interpreted the manger and the swaddling cloths in terms of the theology of the Fathers. The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim, as we shall see more closely when we examine the reference to the first-born. The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.’”
“Wow! That’s a verrry interesting insight!” Dale said.
“But there’s more!” Lawrence got more excited. “The Holy Father quotes St. Augustine’s striking reflection: ‘The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life. Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God, to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God.’”
“Okay, all that is quite profound, indeed,” Dale commented. “But how did you arrive with your ‘last Christmas’?”
“I thought about it, and then with these words of the Pope, I realized that the ‘last Christmas’ actually happens in Calvary where our Lord is crucified.”
“Wait a minute, how are the two related!? Calvary has nothing ‘Christmasy’ in it?”
“If you listened to what I read from the book, then we can somehow conclude that it is in Calvary that Jesus is truly offered to us as our food, in His Body and Blood, which in some way is foretold by his birth in the manger. Moreover, the Cross is also the true altar where Jesus offers Himself for us.”
“That’s really some food for thought!” Dale scratched his head.
“I see you’re quite struck by all this,” Lawrence smiled. “Another cup of coffee?”
“That might help a bit,” Dale accepted his offer.
“Also…,” Dale wore a wide pleased grin.
“…and please, can you chew your food this time?”
“Of course, after all I have to learn how to be a gentleman when I finally ask Diana for a date.
“Diana again!” Lawrence rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
“What’s wrong, dude? Can’t a guy have a girl to dream about for a ‘last Christmas’?”
“Dale, will you agree to stop talking about Diana if I told you something interesting about her?”
“Really!? I’m all ears!” Dale propped himself up to listen.
“Her NAME is Grace!”