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 l ove.

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.

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