By Didi Marañon
Slowly, warm tears gathered in smiling eyes and fell, as if on cue, as PY de Guzman sings the chorus of “Nandito ang Pasko.” It was a November pastoral visit by Bro. Willy and Sis. Luli Nakar to Elim Hong Kong where most of the dwellers are overseas Filipino workers. It is not even December, yet it is Christmas in this school auditorium. There is no Christmas tree, no exchange of gifts, and no luxurious banquet. Still, it is Christmas. And as we finally sang “Silent Night,” no doubt the spirit of Jesus was truly present in our hearts.
What does it take to celebrate a meaningful Christmas? Commerce bombards us with expensive gifts to be bought. Worldly celebration entices us to focus on the party aspect of the holidays. And sadly, the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” is sometimes taken more as a cliché rather than the absolute truth for the entire Christmas celebration.
Nevertheless, many still seek the essence of Christmas — peace, love, joy, generosity — graces that come with receiving the Christ Child in our hearts.
If you want to experience a truly meaningful Christmas, I suggest five ways to help us get into the true spirit of the season.
1. Reflect through Research
Before you attend your first party for the season, research the reason for the celebration. Read Luke chapters 1 and 2. Even if you have read these chapters dozens of times, read them again. They will help prepare your heart for a whole period of celebration. It will keep you focused on the Celebrant rather than the merry-making. You can also listen to podcasts with Christmas as the topic. Or read books about celebrating Christmas the godly way. Another way is by watching movies about the birth of Jesus. This will give you a vivid presentation of what transpired that first Christmas. Browse the Internet for articles about Christmas. Research on the Christmas messages of the saints and the popes and you will be the better for it. These messages will give you new insights as to how you can celebrate Christmas with meaning and substance.
2. Spread the Good News
When the angels appeared to the shepherds on that first Christmas, they turned to one another and shared what they had seen and heard. Thereafter, they hurried to look for the Baby Jesus so that they might give Him homage. We would do well to follow their example. This is the best time to spread the Good News. So find ways to share the Word of God. Give gifts that contain God’s Word. Books are the best in this category. You may also inscribe passages in your presents and cards. Be bold in giving these kinds of presents during Christmas. After all, it is the theme of the season. When asked to say something at a party, take the opportunity to share the Gospel. The celebration demands that you give a spiritual message. So give it! This is the one month in the year that people will be open to hear words from the Bible and reflections about the Lord.
3. Be Amazed
Joseph, Mary, the three wise men and the shepherds — they all celebrated the first Christmas by being amazed. They were in awe. Their eyes glistened with wonder. In a Christmas message by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he said, “Today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: ‘The Savior is born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore Him!’” Every year, the message is the same. We should be amazed at the salvation that God brings to us year after year. We should stand in awe of His presence as we seek Him with all of our hearts. Let us become like little children during Christmas by perceiving with wonder the spirit of the entire holiday season. Avoid being jaded during Christmas. Others even surmise that Christmas is just for kids. But how wrong could those people be! Christmas is for all because Jesus was born for you and me. This very message should keep us in amazement our entire lives. But especially during Christmas, let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts — and be amazed!
4. Have A Quiet Time
Christmas is a time for thanksgiving. It is good to spend quiet times when you can personally thank the Lord for all His blessings. Spend some quiet time where you can be alone with the Lord. In silence you meet Him. In silence you can feel His presence. Enumerate all the blessings you can think of and thank God for each one of them. I assure you, you will feel instant joy. And the spirit of Christmas will fill your heart. St Louis IX of France has said, “Give thanks frequently to God for all the benefits He has conferred on you, that you may be worthy to receive more.”
5. Invite God to Celebrate with You
The most important way to celebrate Christmas is to invite God to celebrate this season with you. Ask Him to be with you as you decorate so that your decoration may reflect His joy and beauty. Ask Him to be with you as you shop so that you may be generous in your giving. Ask Him to be with you in your parties so that all that you do may glorify Him. Ask Him to be with you as you give to charity so that you may be aware that you’re actually giving to Him. An invitation requires a deliberate intent to extend a request. You must ask God. You must pray everyday for Him to be in your celebration. And in so doing, you will be more aware of His presence during the entire season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Didi Marañon is a fulltime servant of the Lord in Elim Communities and is executive director of Springs Foundation, a non-profit organization geared towards the proclamation of the Good News. She is author of the Inner Beauty books and is also a successful entrepreneur — co-owning Bayleaf Foods and Restaurants Inc, and Progressive Little Saints Learning Center, Inc. She is married to Don, a cardiologist.