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Musings On The Beauty of Advent And Christmas Seasons Amidst A Pandemic

The Advent season of the liturgical year has started last Sunday (29th November) and it will be followed by the Christmas season on the eve of 24th December. As mentioned in previous blogs, the season of Advent calls and reminds all of us to gear up for the coming of Christ. Advent is the time of waiting, a time to wake up, a time to get ready, a time of prayer, a time to ponder where we’re at and a time to prepare on how we would like to welcome Jesus in our lives during Christmas time (a time of joy) commemorating His first coming and eventually waiting for His second coming on the last day. And that’s basically the essence and beauty of Advent and Christmas. They both provide us the opportunity to spiritually clean ourselves and allow Jesus to enter and live in our hearts, to improve our spiritual journey particularly in preparation for our Lord’s second coming.

But how are we going to wait and prepare during these Advent and Christmas seasons in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic? What are we going to do meanwhile waiting?

The Year 2020 hasn’t been normal, we have been faced with a grim milestone, a virus that is raging and which is still on-going. And so, our Christmas for this year wouldn’t be also as normal vis-a-vis that of previous years. Currently, our public health officials are advising us to take a prudent and safe approach, as much as possible, to stay home and celebrate the holidays with limited members of the family, taking into account safety precaution guidelines. As such, everyone is expected to adopt a “new normal” way of spending Christmas be it at home, in the workplace, in schools and on line studies, and with the community around us. While there are some who would have the luxury and are fearless enough to still proceed to spend it with their families and friends, there are some who would prefer to take the more careful approach. Some would probably spend their Christmas parties virtually via Zoom or any online video platforms. Same thing with other big families who after considering the potential risks involved, have decided to shelve celebration and meet via zoom, instead of meeting in-person. For churchgoers, liturgical related activities (e.g. Simbang Gabi ) will likewise be different this year. For obvious reasons, large crowds during dawn and evening masses are being discouraged and attendees are to practice safety standards. There will still be live stream celebrations though for those who are unable to go to Church. For those who have lost loved ones and those who have lost their jobs and with nothing to spend for the holidays all because of this terrible virus, their Christmas celebrations would definitely be sober, simple and muted. And these are the people to whom our sorrow, sympathy and prayers should go.

However, even in a quarantine period and regardless of the magnitude of the impact of Covid19 on our lives, the spirit of Christmas remains and can still be felt and relished despite all of this. Even if Covid 19 virus brought confinement, sadness and “Silent Nights” into our lives, we can still turn this around with a positive mindset, and be able to gleefully sing “Joy to the World” to the Holy Night that is forthcoming on the birth of Jesus Christ. We have to be reminded that the light of the candle of the Advent wreath is a beacon of hope for everyone. It is about God’s promise of unconditional love, unending hope and eternal life. When God allowed Himself to live like us here on earth, it was a proof of His greatest love for us and this was the greatest gift that God gave to mankind. All we have to do is accept this gift by placing all our faith, love and trust in Him. And in this regard, we have to trust, hope and pray that the vaccines that are in the offing will be safe, effective, affordable and be made available to all so that the challenge which we are presently facing will soon be over, bringing joy to everyone.

We should not be discouraged by this pandemic. Rather, we should take this “new thing” that we have encountered as a challenge. This pandemic silently gave us an opportunity to reflect on the past things we have done, specifically in our spiritual lives. It reminded us to always be grateful for everything, what we have gained during the quarantine period which made us more grow and mature, recognizing the more important things in life, simple they may be, but they can make a big difference in our lives. And this is what Advent and Christmas are all about. We are given the opportunity to start fresh and begin a new life. It is a strong invitation for us to start over, once again, so as to go on with our journey and live our faith better, hopefully as much better followers of Christ.

The excitement of holiday celebration may overwhelm some of us, forgetting to ponder on the relevance of Advent and the Christmas seasons. Pope Francis in his recent Advent message informs us that “Advent is an incessant call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate end, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ,” The Holy Father stressed that Advent is both a time of “God’s closeness and our watchfulness”. Indeed, since we really don’t know the time frame of God’s coming, we have to to keep watching. As such, there is a need for us to stay awake and be mindful of what’s happening around us and in everything we do, Advent serves as a wake up call for us to stay alert as we don’t have any idea when the time comes.

As the Holy Father stated, “it is important to remain watchful, because one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a thousand things and not to notice God”. Thus, Advent reminds us to open our eyes wide and look back on what happened and reflect on what God expects from us to do. We all know that God from the very beginning of existence wants us to be good in everything: in thought, in word and in deed. But because of the uncertainties in life and the unfortunate events that come our way, we stumble and fall. God is always there to lift us up, and this is where and how the seasons of Advent and Christmas play a crucial role in our spiritual journey to God’s Kingdom.

Apart from being alert and watchful during Advent, we are also commemorating the first coming, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas day. This is the time of the year where everyone should be filled with joy – this is the time where we obtained the gift of salvation, the best gift that that we received from God. Even in mundane things, there are many ways, big or small, to embrace joy as part of our lifestyle (e.g. putting smiles on our faces, saying thank you, praying for those who are in dire need, the sick and the elderly, etc., lending a helping hand, and even just admiring the beauty of nature, so on and so forth), on how we can be messenger of Jesus Christ unselfishly and experience God’s Kingdom on earth with our family, friends, work and community. God loves us dearly and if and when we feel His love, we must share it to others because this will make our paths brighter and straighter, paving the way for Jesus’ coming in our lives not only during Advent and Christmas but through the rest of our lives.

And so this Advent and Christmas season, we pray Father God to show and guide us on how to be joyful and rejoice in all things. Help us to be mindful and grateful for all your blessing and let us be bearers of unity and joy in the world. Amen.

Have a grace-filled, joyful and meaningful Advent and Christmas to you all. May our Almighty God grant us the joy of His salvation. Amen.