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Important Christmas message from the Pope

Delivered on separate occasions, the two Christmas massages from 84-year-old Pope Benedict XVI this year should indeed be read together.

At the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, he lamented that Christmas has become an increasingly commercial celebration that obscures the simplicity of the message of Christ's birth.

"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season,” he said. “And to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."
And in his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and the world") speech from the central loggia of St. Peter's on Christmas Day, he prayed for famine, flood and conflict victims from around the world.

These are timely reminders for us during the festive time. For years, I have noticed that there is an increasing inclination for many to see Christmas as an occasion for pleasure seeking. The slogan of in a credit card advertisement by Hong Kong’s largest bank, prompting the whole city to “Live, Shop, Play”, says it all. The Pope reminds us not only to ponder the true meaning of Christmas but also to think about and pray for the disadvantaged. On this holy day, let us reflect on the reason for Jesus Christ assuming a human existence which began in the simplest and most humble fashion.


Gala Dinner

This was the evening for the Gala Dinner. Being vegans, our food choice is quite “limited”, so it doesn’t make sense to pay the exorbitant price for much of the food that we are simply not going to touch, and the good thing about this favourite resort of ours is that it doesn’t require guests to join the Christmas Dinner like many other hotels.

But we did take some part.

One of the activities for the Gala Dinner was “Cinema Paradiso”, in which movies were shown in front of a lotus pond while the guests were having dinner.  The show being open air meant that other guests were also able to see it, so when we returned to the resort after having our own version of “Gala Dinner” (garlic bread + fried asparagus + yellow curry with vegetables + rice) at about 5 percent of the price of this one, we sat at a secluded corner and quietly enjoyed the show. It was a Disney cartoon, a Christmas version of Beauty and the Beast in which Belle helped turn the Beast into the prince that once was and his gloomy and cursed castle into a hopeful and lively one on Christmas Eve.

A typical storyline for a fairy tale, you might say, but interestingly, the cartoon reinforced some important concepts I learned about life from Nick Vujicic’s book Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life. In the two chapters that I read at the poolside in the last two days, Nick talks about how to handle life when things go against us. He proposes that we should have hope and adopt a positive attitude – an attitude of gratitude, action, empathy and forgiveness. These happened to be the very weapons that brought Belle her triumph, and it was a lack of these that had left the Beast trapped by the dark voices in his own psyche.
Some things in life are more than coincidence, when you think carefully about them.