Merry Christmas Everyone!
The most wonderful time of the year is now on our midst bringing a message of joy and hope to each and every one of us. As we commemorate the solemn arrival of the Emmanuel in our midst there’s one invitation that we need to be aware of in today’s feast and consider it as our main concern for our lives, i.e. LOVE. Christmas is all about LOVE. If there’s no LOVE, there will be no Christmas. The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the best and the greatest manifestation what Love is all about. So we need to ask ourselves this question as we celebrate today the Birth of our Lord; have we ever LOVE truly, deeply, and sincerely? Have we ever expressed love that our Lord Jesus taught to us? The Story of Jesus’ Birth is not a source for entertaining ourselves with lavish enjoyment and celebration; rather it’s all about going back on our main calling to LOVE despite the fact that we are unworthy and broken. So, the invitation of Christmas for all of us is TO GIVE LOVE. Jackson 5 popularized this phrase into a song which manifests what it means TO GIVE LOVE on the Birth of our Lord. Indeed, Christmas calls each and every one of us not just TO GIVE LOVE on the day of Christmas; rather we must never get tired of doing this invitation always and every day.
As we now enjoying and embracing the Spirit of Christmas; let us never forget that the real essence of Christmas is not the sparkling lights that surrounds us, is not Santa Claus, is not the Christmas trees, is not the gifts, is not the food, and is not the parties and celebrations, but LOVE. It’s only LOVE that could manifest the real essence of Christmas in our hearts.
As Christmas is fast-approaching, we cannot but speak about our wishes and dreams for Christmas. Some would like to receive something new like gadgets, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. Others would like just to receive a good amount of money and keep it in order that they may be able to use it for procuring and purchasing what is indicated on their wish lists. Now that we are preoccupied of thinking, obtaining, and wishing for good gifts this Christmas, there’s one thing that we need to consider as we joyfully wait for the coming of the Lord, i.e. our own wish list for Jesus.
What is our gift for Jesus? As I reflect upon this question today I feel so uneasy and sad. For the past Christmases I’ve failed to give my gift to Jesus, i.e. myself. I easily lose focus on what is necessary and get preoccupied with secondary entities in life. Every Christmas I always say, “Yes Lord! I will change my old self into a new self” but even as I put into actions the promises I made to God during Christmas, I fail to make it. Now Christmas is near and it’s the same old story as I wait for the coming of Baby Jesus. But, as I ease myself with the uneasiness and sadness that I feel, I realize that God is still patient with me. Yes, I always fail Him by my inability to show that I am changing and serious on His callings, reminders, and invitations. But for Him it is not a big deal as long as He sees me persevering, hoping, and eagerly patient on welcoming and befriending the changes and newness in my life. And for Him, that’s already a great gift which comes from my brokenness and shortcomings.
While that we are excited to receive gifts this Christmas, let us not forget our gift/s for the Child Jesus. For me, my simple gift for the Child Jesus is the same: myself. Sounds ordinary yet significant. Why? Because I believe giving ourselves as gift for the Child Jesus this Christmas is not about bragging about the best gift that we could give to Him. Rather, it is all about loving authentically. This is what Christmas is all about: selfless love. Whenever we light the fire of love in every heart that is experiencing the darkness of winter, it’s Christmas. Let us always remember, Christmas originated from the Manger of Christ, and that’s a great manifestation of love for each and every one of us who are waiting for His coming.
It’s so nice to celebrate Christmas with our families, friends, acquaintances, and even our loved ones. They serve as the reason of what it means to have a complete Christmas because it is really different to celebrate Christmas together with those whom you loved most. It is already rooted in our nerves to see to it that our presence is connecting with them by way of sharing our smiles, laughters, and cheers. Our Christmas will never be happy and complete without them even though there’s no giving of gifts and the food is simple.
It’s a sad reality on my part that I am not with my family this coming Christmas. I miss them so much especially as Christmas is fast-approaching. It’s a different joy when I am with them celebrating the birth of Jesus. Now, I am too far to them. I cannot but be nostalgic about my previous experiences of celebrating Christmas with them. Henceforth, it’s really a delightful experience to celebrate Christmas with our families, and in this pleasing scenario it adds a good reputation for Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s really an unacceptable reality that I am not with them this coming yuletide season. It’s really a different story when you’re with them in person than greeting them Merry Christmas and saying your best wishes to them with a smile in Facebook, Skype, in chat, SMS, or call. Although it is a sad reality, I need to be strong and steadfast with my nostalgic tendencies especially now Christmas is near. In this experience I realize that there’s a time into our lives that to be with our families, friends, acquaintances, and even our loved ones is not permanent and forever. There’s really a moment for our lives that we need to stand on our own for the sake of a greater good not just for ourselves but also for others. Yes, it’s natural that we miss them. I too cannot disregard the fact that I miss them and I long for them. But, I really need to accept the fact that in life I should learned the art of standing at my own feet. Although it’s hard to accept this, I should never let my emotions be moved by it because life sooner or later will not be anymore always between Me and My family, friends, relatives, and acquaintances, but between Me and God. Again, as I prepare myself with the coming of Jesus, I learned new lesson today, i.e. eventhough Life will never be the same as before, memories will continue to help us to discover that there are things in life which we need to cherish and give importance before it loses. Eventhough I am not with my family this Christmas, I could still say that my Christmas is complete because they taught the real essence of Christmas, i.e. LOVE, CONCERN, and GRATITUDE. I am very thankful to them that they taught me these three magical words into my life.
What it means to say ‘yes’ to an opportunity or to a call? The Fourth Sunday of Advent shows to me an answer for this question as I reflect upon the Sunday Gospel for today. The gospel for today, which is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, talks about the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Annunciation story is not just a story itself from the Bible, but it also gives to us a lesson which is essential for pondering as we also encounter some experiences in life that needs our firm decisions. If Mary did not say her ‘yes’ to the Lord for sure there will be no Christmas, and we will never experience or define what is redemption or salvation is all about. On Mary’s part, probably she was really perspiring or hesitant in hearing or saying her ‘yes’ to Angel Gabriel’s message that she will bore a Son who will be called Holy and the Son of God. But, all those thingsdid not affect her in saying; “Behold I am the maidservant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word.”
The gospel for today is really striking my life especially in my vocation journey. To be honest, it’s really hard to say your ‘yes’ to an opportunity or to a call especially if it is God’s will. It’s unavoidable to cling with your own plans or wills because you want to achieve something in life, you want to be happy, and you know your shortcomings and limitations. But, it’s not the case when we speak about following the will of God. To be honest, to follow the will is really challenging because you really need to deny your plans, wills, aspirations, and even dreams that you desire most. What made Mary to say her ‘yes’ to God’s call to be the mother of the Messiah? As I reflected upon the gospel, my thoughts were captivated upon the words of Angel Gabriel to Mary; “Do not be afraid…for nothing will be impossible for God.” When I encounter this passage in the gospel for today, my eyes shed in tears. For many years that I am journeying together with my identity as I religious there’s one thing that I can’t still overcome, i.e. fear. Fear affected me greatly to trust with God’s providential care as I follow Him. Yes, nothing is impossible for God, but how will I trust in these words of Him if I am afraid to dedicate and commit myself firmly to Him? Why is it easy for Mary to say her ‘yes’ to God’s invitation, but for me it’s hard?
Really, the Annunciation story is not just a story itself from the Bible. It serves as a model for me on how I may be able to trust in the Lord’s call without any hesitation in my heart. Like Mary, I really need to check my trust with the Lord and ask this question to myself; what’s going on in me? Why is it hard to trust the One that is gracious, merciful, and just. Mary’s vocation story is really a challenge for my vocation journey. Once God call you for a great purpose in life there has to be no if’s and but’s. It’s a matter of firm faith, and to have a firm faith takes a lot of dying with my own self-interests. As Christmas is fast-approaching I am so glad today that I encounter once again Mary’s vocation story. It simply conveys to me a message that as I am really doing my best to follow the footsteps of Christ I need really to cast out all my fears and to say this deeply within my heart: “I am a maidservant of the Lord, may it done to me according to His will”.
Why Jesus was born in the manger? I always encounter this question whenever I gaze and reflect upon the manger of Christ. If He is the Son of God, why He was born in the manger? Does God destine it for Him? Actually, if I will be asked I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what’s in the mind and in the will of God for Jesus, but the only thing that I perceive in this episode of Jesus’ life is its message for me. The manger of Christ invites me to consider the most significant thing in life, i.e. humility. Jesus was born in the manger in order to show to me and to all of us what it means to be humble like Him. He is the Son of God, but He chose to be ‘like us’. Simply put, humility of Jesus is not all about prestige, but selfless love; not all about pride, but compassion; and not all about power, but mercy.
I am truly affected by this insight. To be honest, I am always at the lost whenever I rendered my kindness and service to others. To brag my achievements in life sometimes is my uncontrolled tendencies once I converse with people. To be recognized is one of my desires in life as I struggle to be good and pleasing, but this is not authentic life. Authentic life is all about humility, and that’s what I need to ponder. As I revisit my past experiences, I realized that I lost a lot of true friendships and trusts not because of indifference but pride. Pride is my mortal enemy, and this is what the manger of Christ would like to remind me, that pride will never be always beneficial in true relationships.
As the Christmas is fast approaching, another lesson in life is revealed to me again by Christ, i.e. starting prioritizing Him as the model of true humility. Christmas may be described by its colors, carols, garlands, and symbols, but the real Christmas is not on these things, but is in the manger whereby the Child Jesus would like to tell us; ‘learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart’; and that’s Christmas for Him.
When I was still a child Christmas time for me is the most wonderful and exciting time of the year because of the gifts. I love gifts especially when it is given to me during Christmas because it completes my childhood expectation about the spirit of Christmas. Now that I reached adulthood it seems that gifts do not make any sense to me at all this coming Christmas. I already received many gifts when I was a child; now it’s my time to give gifts of joy to others especially those who are deprived this Christmas.
Why is it that gifts are very important every Christmas? Actually, giving gifts may sound acquisitive because of its nature as something materialistic or commercialistic. But, as I reflect upon this phenomena; giving gifts for me is neither something materialistic nor commercialistic, rather it is the matter of what is inside the heart. We give gifts not because of the material and the appearance, but because of love, respect, appreciation, gratitude, and joy. Christmas is joy, so we give gifts in order to share the joy. We like that each and every one of us are happy celebrating the spirit of Christmas. Not all gifts are something material, commercial, or merely an appearance; it could also be radiated to good deeds, our presence, or even just our smile that comes from our heart.
To be honest, I don’t have any material thing to give this Christmas. The only thing that I could give this coming Christmas is my whole self by helping through facilitating in the Christmas Sharing for the poor children that we usually do in our community. It may sound tiring and time-consuming, but in this act of random kindness, it will be the most beautiful gift that I could ever give for the poor children this Christmas. Just like when I was a child that I received much during Christmas, now it’s my turn to give gifts this Christmas in a form of service for those who are in need especially the poor children. With this, I am happy to say that my Christmas is already complete because I will be sharing a smile and hope for the poor children their ultimate hopes, wishes, and dreams for this coming Christmas is to be happy and fulfilled despite the misery and poverty that they endure.
Jingle Bells, Carols of the Bells, O Holy Night, Silent Night, etc. These are some of the popular songs that the children are singing in every house at the start of December. Here in the Philippines caroling is one of the best manifestations what is Christmas all about for us Filipinos. It adds color, harmony, and rhythm that gives a chill for our ears that expects for a happy Christmas. So that’s why Christmas will never be merrier and full of meaning here in the Philippines if there’s no Christmas carols that soothe our hearts to long for a prosperous life guided by Mary’s boy child, Jesus Christ.
I do caroling since when I was a child. Together with the band of childhood friends, we went around the busy street of Pasay, going house to house just to sing a Christmas carol and asked for a pamasko in order to appease our efforts in singing though it was out of tune with the accompaniment of tambourine made from flattened bottle cap, stainless spoon and fork, and a drum made from old milk cans. I miss those days especially when you were already happy receiving coins and candies from your hard work in singing a Christmas carol. Now that I am advancing in age and wisdom those days are now memories into my heart and mind. As I am facing and struggling all the stress and preparations this coming Christmas, I always long to be a child again simply expecting for a joy and happy Christmas, simply singing the Christmas songs, and have no worries at all to wait for Christmas.
Revisiting my childhood experiences during December-the so-called “Christmas month” reminds me of something that I really need to consider into my life; everything changes but life’s lesson will always be forever the same. Though I feel nostalgic at this present moment seeing little children singing Christmas carols in different houses, I am proud that I experienced it. It means to say, I became part of what it means to give a meaning for Christmas. Hence, caroling is not on the songs we sing, on the value of money we receive, or on the candies that collect and hide on our pockets but rather caroling is all about sharing the light of Christmas that comes from the Messiah who is to come despite the cold-dark night that surrounds us and hinders us to see the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts.
He was not light, but came to testify to the light.
Today is Gaudete Sunday and it invites us to rejoice and not anymore to wear a long face because the coming of the Lord is near. In today’s reading the Prophet Isaiah introduces to us what it means to rejoice for the coming of the Lord and what will be the prospect of His coming, i.e. to bring glad tidings to the poor. But, this will only be realized and recognized if we acknowledge and believe in the Light. What does it mean for us? Why the Third Sunday of Advent focuses about the Light? What is the connection of it to Isaiah’s proclamation about the coming and sending of the Messiah for all of us who are expecting for it?
As I reflected upon the gospel, I realized that the Third Sunday of Advent is not just only all about rejoicing itself, but it is also all about accepting the Light with joy into our hearts. The delight of the Third Sunday of Advent will only be sensed if we share the joy of the presence of God’s coming into those who are longing and crying for it. Rejoicing in the Third Sunday of Advent is also all about sharing hope to those who are hopeless, healing the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to those who are oppressed and in darkness, and announcing a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God through humility and compassion. These are the manifestations of the Light as we allow ourselves to be enlightened by it and as we also cooperate and collaborate with its clear invitation for all of us. It’s obvious that when there’s no light, there’s darkness that overcast our capacity to see the goodness of an entity. It’s the same thing with our lives; when we allow darkness to disturb our capability to aim for good and to do good; it’s absurd to give importance to the voice of the Light that is crying out into our hearts. So, goodness is not on the appearance, but it is on our conviction to believe in the Light; and that’s the reason why the Third Sunday of Advent is all about rejoicing; rejoicing in the sense of testifying to the Light, and not enjoying without any meaning and significance at all into our lives.