Friday, December 27, 2013

Discovering Christmas every year

Christmas isn't Christmas (Till it happens in your heart) is one of the most beautiful spiritual Christmas which brings a deeper meaning to this wonderful festive season adorned with images of falling snow, boughs of holly, candy canes, Christmas trees, stacks of presents, giant stockings and all the glittering lights.
Often we have been so occupied by the preparations for the festive occasion - shopping, cooking, planning for the gathering/vacation, decorating the house, sending out invitations and selecting nothing but the best attires for church mass/services that we have probably overlooked the most important preparation of all; the spiritual part, which is also what Christmas really is all about.

It is hard not to get carried away with the flamboyant messages sent by the commercial department and the media which makes Christmas such an exciting time of the year, thus attracting even the non-Christians/believers to join in the festive atmosphere as gift exchanges at work or among friends/co-workers/families slowly made its way into majority of the world population. Garlands of tinsels and lights, colorful streamers with sparkly elements and holly crepes are hung across the streets, shopping malls and houses, lending that touch of the Christmas ambiance all over the place.
Then there is the presents hunting where everyone is busy planning and shopping for that perfect gift for their loved ones, to be put under the Christmas tree or to be handed over to their friends during a Christmas party. Everyone is determined to make this the most joyous occasion ever; and to look their best and of course, the fact that it is towards the year end which coincides with the holidays season does contribute to all the high spirits in the air during this time of the year.
It no longer matters that Christmas is truly a religious festival as all everyone wants to do is to have a reason to celebrate; and the season of giving turned to be the right time to call for a celebration.

Being a born Catholic, Christmas has and always will be a religious festival to me as we celebrate the religious meaning of this season above all the gifts giving, parties and gatherings. While we do enjoy the excitement of decorating our humble homes and wrapping those gifts for our loved ones, we do these all while remembering the reason for Christmas. Well, at least, I do.
December is always the favorite time of the year for me (followed by January), and of course, it being the year end and holiday season was definitely good reason enough to enjoy this last month of the calendar year.
Besides all that, I seek the comfort and blessings of Christmas during this season, and begin my journey of spiritual and mental preparation for the magical occasion.

Advent marks the period before Christmas which is where we prepare ourselves for the nativity (coming) of Jesus Christ. To me, it is a time of reflection, prayers and seeking the understanding within ourselves and the religion prior to the grand celebration or welcoming our Lord.
It doesn't make anyone a saint nor being extremely holy in that context when we prepare ourselves for Christmas, but it is an important stage for us to truly be involved in the celebration through the right frame of mind.

As a child, I have known that Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. We celebrate that He is born to us, and He is known as Our Saviour, who came to save and free us from sins. Then we celebrate with our families; attending midnight mass at the local parish (church), enjoying family meals and opening our Christmas presents. We sing Christmas carols, and my dad and grandmother would tell me that we must thank God for giving us His Only Son, Jesus Christ. Baby Jesus is born on Christmas Day, and He is the Son of God.

While this is truly the main notion of Christmas as a celebration, as I grow older, I started seeing Christmas a little differently year by year. Oh yes, I realized that I started to want to know more about Christmas beneath all that pretty decorations and messages on the surface for I want to understand and be truly involved in celebrating the joy of Christmas. It is after all, the birth of Our Lord and it is already a joyous and jubilant season to begin with.
I began to understand through the lyrics of the Christmas songs, the readings from the Bible and from the priests where I attend masses and I start to connect the points again and again, in a different manner every single year.

It turned out that Christmas was different in my own eyes each year, as I appreciate the gifts from above and all the things that were happening around me; I perceived as blessings. It is unique, really, though not fully explainable in words, but there is just something magical about the season.
It is not about all that fancy stuffs we have around the trees, nor on our doors/houses, nor our presents lists, but much more deeper fulfillment from within the heart.
I felt as though Jesus lives in me; and I could hear myself singing of his glory with a louder echoing sound back to my own ears. I felt humbled before the Son of God, who had died for us, and was our King, but yet close enough to be in our hearts.
There should not be fear, but rather, love to invite Him into our hearts.

This Year's Christmas - Highlight (A Special Moment)
The highlight of this year's Christmas was the magical sight orchestrated by the local church which I attended the midnight mass with my family. Shortly after the grand entrance and as we were singing our Glory to God, the altar server boys rang the short handled bells in their hands as we were standing.
The priests came forward (as in the welcoming the Blessed Sacrament) and they were accepting a small figure from a couple who came up to the bottom of the altar.
As the priest held the clay figure up high, everyone could see that it was the figure of the Baby Jesus.
What happened next somehow pulled a magical string in my heart, as I watched in awe and a stirring emotion as the priests, still holding the baby high and walked towards the cradle by the stable set up by the side of the altar. As they placed baby Jesus at his crib, the stable was instantly lighted up and the priests knelt/bowed before the baby Jesus.
I could not help the tiny tears forming at the corner of my eyes, as I felt warmth and a stirring feeling within my heart as I witnessed the whole episode and needless to say, I was singing to the hymn with full adoration.

It was truly one of the most beautiful moments I have ever seen, and the feeling, oh, the feeling was just inexplicable but I would say I was touched by the Holy Spirit just then?
It was a good feeling; not a bad one, definitely, and one that makes me go warm and comforted - as though I felt safe and loved. It is not a feeling easily told with words, and perhaps the best word to describe it is - Magical?
It struck me that the Son of God did not come to us as a King, cloaked in his finest with loud trumpets blowing and media waiting for his arrival. Rather, he was humbly born in a stable and in hiding with his father and mother, and surrounded by hay. Not the best conditions to be born, and given the circumstances of his time, it would appear to be worse than what was depicted today. There could be animals surrounding him, constantly coming in to take a peek at the newborn, or there could be even animal wastes where he laid.
A picture that many of us would not think of to place our newborns, but this was the Son of God and God sent us this message through His birth that He was like us, born as man.
Our King humbled himself and perhaps even lower than most of us privileged beings in this modern day, and He came to take away our sins and sufferings. He suffered to make our lives better.
He was indeed, a King in all our hearts.

I love the bits and pieces of Christmas; from the giving of gifts to the family reunion and the festive food. Giving of gifts did not signify extravagant or expensive items, but it should rather come from the heart.
A gift that comes from the heart can be felt with the heart in return ~ Me
There are many ways you could give a gift to someone; for instance, even a simple hug or smile or even a little penny could just do the trick. Just remind yourself that Christmas's biggest gift was from up above, and it doesn't come with riches and luxury, but rather, baby Jesus was born in a humble stable which was probably not the most desirable place with the shabby conditions back then during that era. Given that image, He was still our Best GIFT ever for it was a gift of salvation and LOVE.
Giving is not just about physical gifts; for that is not Christmas is truly about.
Gifts from within the heart are far worth more than gifts off the shelves. 
Forgiving others, is another message we get from Christmas for it is all about giving ourselves a break and giving others a second chance. It is not an easy thing to do (I am still learning to), but it will happen if we pray and ask God for guidance, and someday, we could find peace in forgiveness.

Christmas truly isn't Christmas until it happens in your heart, and you feel it in your heart.
It did, in my heart, this year, as I see yet another beautiful side of Christmas. I may have already known all the facts and history of Christmas but that does not mean, I will not experience Christmas from a different perspective each year.
A simple fact of celebrating the birth of Jesus could turn to be a different discovery for me each and every year, and I am glad that I could feel Christmas in my heart.
Christmas is truly different when felt with the is no longer the dazzling lights or tinkling tinsels....but the magical tears and warmth in the heart.
Is Christmas truly Christmas for you?

I pray you too, start feeling Christmas and discover Christmas like I do, every year....

Wishing you and a your family a warm, blessed and magical Christmas!~

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