The First Christmas

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A blessed Christmas to all!

The First Christmas tells a lot about celebrating our faith in the Lord. And the reason why we celebrate this encounter is because of the Lord Jesus. In the First Christmas, we see the Lord Jesus born in the manger, with Mary and Joseph joyfully praising the Lord for experiencing His love for them and for humanity. Celebrating Christmas is celebrating our faith-experience in Bethlehem, where we see His coming among us in an unexpected way.

FAMILY – I was able to celebrate my Christmas together with my family, although my father is still working abroad. For many days now, I was able to stay with Mama and my brother and spent our time together. We went to attend the Novena Mass together, as well as the Christmas Mass in the evening. I prepared our simple Noche Buena by cooking spaghetti and ham. My Mama and my brother prepared barbecue and hotdogs. We had our special prayers together, thanking the Lord for the graces we received and the gift of family stirred by His love. We don’t have much, but for me it was a Bethlehem-experience – simplicity at its best.

FRATERNITY – Christmas would not be without brotherhood and charity. Part of my celebration of Christmas was to share the Spirit of Christmas through our Christmas Carols, Christmas Sharing with the children, Christmas Party with the youth, and Christmas outreach activity with the youth for the victims of the Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao. Celebrating Christmas opened me to be part of charitable works – with the intention of bringing Jesus to all through sharing. It was also my Bethlehem-experience because seeing the manger reminds me well of Jesus’ oneness with our poor and suffering brethren.

FAITH – My early vacation from the seminary last December 10 made me prepare a lot in celebrating the Simbang Gabi. For the Novena Mass (or Dawn Mass), I served in our chaplaincy – and for me it was meaningful because I was able to keep track of my reflections as I listened to the homilies of my chaplain. My Bethlehem-experience was the past Holy Masses I attended – and it was a meaningful encounter of the Child Jesus. Such Holy Masses reminded me of my true identity as God’s beloved redeemed. The Holy Masses brought me back to the experience of the First Christmas. For this, I am happy and joyful to celebrate this Christmas!

And for all of you, I have put here my Christmas card exquisitely-made from Adobe Photoshop.

“How about you, my dear friend: what were your Bethlehem-experiences this Christmas?”

Simbang Gabi Chronicle #5: SERVANTHOOD

ImageDearest Friends:

Blessings of joy and peace to all!

Today, December 20, we are invited to reflect on the narrative of Mama Mary’s Annunciation in the Gospel reading. In particular, we are called to respond to our vocation like Mary’s trusting heart: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Hence, the reality of “servanthood” in a highly-technological world needs to be  reaffirmed and rediscovered during this Christmas season, and in the Year of Faith. Young as she was when her vocation was made known to her, she now serves as the example of the youth today – eager and excited to search for meaning in life.

To reaffirm and rediscover servanthood takes witnesses of service. But given a world permeated by technological developments, there is a need to have a renewed understanding of service. Today, our notion of service as equated with slavery gains a lot of resentment, irritability and indignance. If we are to understand service  with witnessing, I would personally look into it as a sense of legacy. Perhaps, we admire people because they inculcate a legacy which in turn encourages others to dream and have their own legacy to live. First of all, there is legacy because there is something worth fighting for and worth living.

Mary’s servanthood is characterized by her welcome of the Child Jesus in her life. She herself was immersed into the mystery of God’s presence in humanity – and she became a participant to it. Her legacy then was to bring God’s salvation to all when she answered, with a pondering heart, her generous “yes” to the Lord’s call. As evident in the Scriptures, Mary at first did not understand why she was the one chosen and why she, a virgin, have to bear God’s Son. This is the beauty of our faith – and makes us affirm it according to the Spirit dwelling in us. We just have to be open to Him and trust Him.

Perhaps, a good preparation for Christmas season is to open ourselves to the Lord. All of us are in the pursuit of what is meaningful in life. In my experience, I entered the seminary because I desire to have meaning in my life. This desire to pursue religious and priestly vocation would not have been possible if not with the help of the Spirit of God. Yes, it is God’s initiative to call me and lead me to a mission. But it is also His desire to let me see the meaning of my response to His call. I would always ask for it in my prayers to remind me that I have a legacy to live and to hand on to the future generations. Young as I am, I could really feel it. Now, Mary becomes an example to me. I wish I can be like her. I wish I can bring God’s love to people around me, just like how Mary proclaimed her joy to Elizabeth, to the shepherds, and to the Magi.

“When we desire to serve others, what is the legacy we want them to live?”