CHRISTIAN communities are familiar of the word advent because it asks for the faithful to prepare for the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. On the first Sunday of December, the first purple candle is lit before the mass to signify the first of four weeks before this birth and what is a more proper way to prepare for the incarnation of Jesus than to make oneself clean from evil ways.
Change for the better is supposed to be the primary call of advent but since we are more concern on decorations and other forms of Christmas preparations, we almost forget what this period means. We do not forget that other countries know us to have the longest Christmas celebration in the world because it actually starts once the ‘ber months arrive.
On September 1, many Philippine provinces would start displaying Christmas trees, start playing Christmas songs, and decorating houses and business establishments with Christmas adornments. Before the month of December approaches, numerous Christmas parties are scheduled in the offices or schools. There is Christmas party for every office, for every department, for every family and other groups and subgroups. Cash bonuses are carefully planned for buying gifts and food. There’s nothing wrong about this external way of celebrating Christmas but it should be more proper to think that Christmas is more of a spiritual event rather than a mere tradition of spending and gatherings.
Christmas reminds us of the great love of Christ because in our belief He came, became flesh like us, to save us from the fires of hell. It takes a long discussion to explain this saving process and incarnation but I think we can understand this rescue from death better when we understand how Jesus lived us a human being. He cured the sick, freed the possessed people from evil spirits, made the blinds see, and the lames walk. He gave us the commandments and showed how these commandments are lived. In the end He gave up his life so that those who believe in Him should go with Him in heaven and live and not be left in hell and forever be damned. This is the great love of God for humankind that even God himself suffered human sorrows so that the people could live eternally.
We celebrate this spirit of love by our gatherings and gift-giving. When we have gatherings, like family gatherings or reunions, we are only imitating and living the example of love which God showed us. Gatherings should not be centered on the food preparation but on the spirit of oneness among family members. Love should be celebrated by trying to keep the family relationship strong. By having a strong family bond, we share this love to the rest of the community especially those who do not feel loved every day. All Christmas decorations should be displayed because we want to show the people that love is all around. When we give and receive gifts, we do not supposed to base them on the amount of the given or received gifts but on the love of the giver.
Advent is a preparing ourselves to be worthy of the love and sacrifice of the One to be born. It is not showing off our economic status. That is why people are asked to make confessions to be forgiven of their sins. People are encouraged to undergo spiritual encounters and other similar activities to recognize this love given to us that we may live it and share this to others. It is good then to ask ourselves why we give gifts, attend Christmas parties, or join various gatherings. Is it for me to share the love showed by Christ or is it me giving in to my selfish motives?
For the ordinary people, advent implies a long vacation, no classes, more money to be spent, more people in the malls, or more traffic congestions. So advent becomes more of a preparation where to spend this week-long vacation. Should we book a flight to Boracay, Bohol, Cebu, or to other tourist-spot destinations? It becomes more of visiting market places early in the season to avoid shopping rush. Pickpockets and robbers see Christmas as a great opportunity to increase their income. Children counts the numbers of their godparents. Parents would informed them who among their godparents they should go to. Yet it should better to let them know that all these activities are motivated by the great love of Christ. All of our actions should then be influenced and motivated by the same great love.
Advent is a long time for us to recognize the love of God. By the time the children’s caroling begins before Christmas day, we should then understand this love and ready to spread it to the whole world. I’m listening to a Christmas song while writing this down. A line says “I’ll be home for Christmas.” I think the singer wants us to understand that the family should feel this love better by being together as one. Are you ready for Christmas? The Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Christmas songs and the gigantic Christmas paroles should all remind us to live according to the rules of love.