The First Christmas

Image

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?”

Advertisements

Simbang Gabi Chronicle #8: AFFECTION

Image

Dearest Friends:

Peace and glad tidings in the Lord!

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we were once more led into the narrative of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. The whole episode of the visit also leads us reflect another aspect of “telling the good news” – affection. Mary’s meeting with her cousin is an episode of affection which is worth-emulating. The visit itself is a manner of affection which a pure joy shows in the person of Mary. Mary “proclaimed” the good news through her affectionate visit – which is also love.

Come to think of it – many people are in dire need of affection, yet we seem to ignore it like an “eat in the cafeteria”. We keep thinking of doing enormous charitable works which in fact sometimes, affection would be enough as charity itself. All of us are in need of affection, hence, all of us are in need of love. Yet, all of us are capable of “passing on” the affection by showing affection in simple ways. Our presence with a friend in distress is already love. Saying “thank you” to a stranger who helped carry your heavy bags is already love. A text message to a long-time-no-see cousin is already love. A flower given to a committed teacher is already love. A simple tap to a friend who lost a game is already love. All these things are simple, yet they create a cosmic difference – we showed love.

Mary has been “affected” by God’s love. Now, being animated by the Spirit of love, she goes out to “pass on” the affection through her visit to Elizabeth. This Christmas, we are called to be like Mary: when we receive the joy coming from the Lord, it is best not to keep it to ourselves alone, but let others know the presence of the Lord when we show affection. We do not have all the time to plan enormous activities of charity. We can be charitable in simple things. God does not count on accomplishments of big events. What counts on Him is the love we give in simple things. That is the wisdom of God.

“When was the last time I smiled to people I meet everyday?”

Simbang Gabi Chronicle #7: MAGNIFICAT

ImageDearest Friends:

A blessed Christmas to all!

For our seventh day of our Simbang Gabi Chronicles, we listen to Mary’s sweet Magnificat. Out from her pure joy and gladness as she received the Lord Jesus, we hear Mary’s outpouring of praise to the Lord, with her visit to Elizabeth. Such spontaneity makes it so unique and resounds to all of us today – her firm faith is seen in her joy when she exclaimed the Magnificat. It tells a lot about us today – and we are invited to become Magnificat to others as well.

Personally, I have been freshly attracted to the Magnificat ever since I entered the seminary. There have been over seven renditions of the song of the Magnificat composed by our Filipino Artists which I put in my MP3 player. I would always feel goosebumps whenever I hear the song every now and then. It’s like even the song would flow rapidly in my bloodstreams, and then my heart would beat fast. Even when I munch the words of our Blessed Mother, it feels a new breath and a sense of joy to live in. I wonder how Mary was able to put those words in harmony and perfection – both in lyrics and in her spontaneity.

What makes the Magnificat  so unique is that it springs from Mary’s spontaneity and pure joy as she felt the presence of God in her life. She is so full of God, and with God’s presence in her came the joyful song. It is God’s initiative which made her outpouring of her innermost love for God and for all humanity. Definitely, she was not a Pharisee, Scribe, or other religious leaders during her time. But definitely, she is so full of God – in her humility and simplicity!

What does the Magnificat lead us to? It leads us to recognize the presence of God. And in our recognition of Him, let our outpouring become spontaneous and pure. It happens when we stop worrying and preoccupying ourselves with lots of things, and then we let the Spirit lead us to where He desires. Frankly, it is called “faith” – but that faith is a joy-filled faith. Today, it calls us to celebrate faith – not to die trying hard to be religious and righteous (isn’t that the same with workaholism?). Many thought that to obey the rituals would be enough (many died bitter and regretful because of this). Celebrating faith means our celebration of our true identity and uniqueness – and therefore, it has to be Spirit-led spontaneity. We have our God-given talents: why not spend time to discover, enrich them, and let it be God’s hand to let others discover His love? It’s way more than we thought it to be. Worth-pondering.

“When was the last time I used my talents to praise the Lord for His love?”