(by Romano M. Bulatao, Ph.D.)
Christmas is the most anticipated season by most Christians around the world. In fact, many groups of people early on had their Christmas parties and or gatherings for one reason or another. Much earlier, people sing in unison the famous line, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” (pertaining to the Christmas season). When “ber-months” started in September, Christmas songs were already played on different platforms. Aside from this musical accent, external expressions symbolizing the festive Christmas are also visible and elegantly displayed. Different kinds of lights twinkle along the streets, among establishments, parks, respective homes, etc. Creative Christmas decorations are already put in place. Indeed, Christmas is in the air!
The excitement to celebrate Christmas is burning in every heart. And yet, more often than not, most of us Christians are missing one important season that is considered the foundational basis for us to experience the true essence of Christmas – the Advent Season!
The Advent season is the prelude to the Christmas season. The term “advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus,” which means the “coming” or “arrival.” This word also has a translation in Greek, “Parousia,” which also means the “second coming!” For the Advent season, we are given four (4) weeks to properly prepare ourselves as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each week bears a theme that would guide us in attuning ourselves to God’s great arrival into our lives: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In the light of faith, we see these themes as God’s offer of His Grace to all humanity and the rest of creation.
In our seemingly hopeless world, we need hope in the context of God’s promises of good life and well-being to all. We remain humble in our hearts, hopeful of God’s undying care. Also, as wars disturb the tranquility of the earth, many innocent civilians are severely affected by losing lives and properties. This includes the effects on the economy, especially in third-world countries. Amidst the absence of peace in these areas, we put our trust in God that He may continue to touch the hearts of every country’s leader to stop the war as their means to solve disputes.
Furthermore, there are a good number of people who experience loneliness in their respective situations. Some feel alone and left behind. May they learn to reconnect themselves to God through prayer. In the words of Saint Paul, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks to God at every moment. This is the will of God, your vocation as Christians” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Through prayer, we continuously connect ourselves to God, the true source of our authentic happiness. Finally, many people are neglected, rejected, marginalized, and unloved. May they experience God’s love as they may overcome and eventually be liberated from all that enslave them. In his Angelus reflection on December 3, 2023, Pope Francis uttered that “the servant’s vigilance is not one of fear, but of longing, of waiting to go forth to meet their Lord who is coming. Part of being watchful during the Advent season, Pope Francis encourages us “to encounter Jesus coming in every brother and sister who needs us and to share with them what we can: listening, time, concrete assistance,” to mention a few.
Talks about the “coming” or “arrival” of Jesus Christ, there are two (2) well-known kinds namely the “first coming,” which pertains to the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem (the incarnation), which happened already, and the “second coming,” the “Parousia” which is yet to come. But theologians would suggest that in between the first and the second coming, there is also the moment of the coming of Jesus Christ in our day-to-day life. This means that we are called to be consciously vigilant in the coming of Jesus Christ into our daily lives. In other words, Jesus Christ opens Himself to us every day.
But the whole mystery of God’s love for humanity and the rest of creation is unfathomable in the absence of faith. Because in faith, we believe that God is always with us as in the words of Jesus Christ Himself, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, from all eternity, it is clear that “God is with us,” the very meaning of His name – “Emmanuel.”
Re-thinking the essence of the Advent season is a challenge to each of us. In the interface between the “coming” and “waiting,” which usually points to the “coming of Jesus Christ” and “our waiting to receive Him,” how about a twist in our understanding of the meaning of Advent? What if the truth is that during the Advent season, Jesus Christ is “waiting” for us in our most awaited “coming” or reconnecting ourselves to Him?
We cannot just limit the power and the love of God through our own limitations! God is beyond time, yet He decided to enter our history to show us how to live a meaningful life. His being fully God and fully human is an eternal truth that gave us a way to understand His love for us if only we were open to His grace and wisdom. In other words, God constantly offers us His loving presence. Thus, God is always with us. If God is with us, there is nothing to be afraid of. It is providential that according to Biblical experts, the phrase “Be not afraid!” or “Do not fear!” is found in the Holy Bible 365 times. God guarantees us His unfailing love and presence all year round.
In the light of faith during this Advent season and in our day-to-day life, we should ask ourselves: “The truth is that God is always with us, but the question is, are we with Him always?” Perhaps we missed the point that God is waiting for us and that He is so excited for our coming or our “return” to Him! And maybe, just maybe, this is another way of looking at the meaning of Advent season!
Let us continue to reflect, reconnect, and be renewed. God bless you, your families, and your work! Have a meaningful and fruitful Advent Season!
ROMANO MACARAEG BULATAO completed his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (AB Philo.) in 1990 at the Claret Formation Center (now Saint Anthony Mary Claret College or SAMCC), Quezon City. He finished his Master of Arts in Religious Studies (MA Rel. Stds.) in 2003 and his Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA Philo., cum laude) in 2014, both at the Saint Louis University (SLU), Baguio City. Dr. Bulatao obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theology, Major in Missiology, at the SAMCC, Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA), Quezon City, in 2021. From June 2006 to May 2009, he served as the Department Head of Religion at SLU and a Professor in the same Department from AY 1996 – 2023. Dr. Bulatao is the Assistant Director at the Office of Student Affairs and Services. He is the Author of Touching Thoughts A-Z and Touching Thoughts on Creation A-Z, published in 2009 and printed in 2013 by Claretian Publications. Dr. Bulatao’s latest book is Walking Together in the Care of Our Common Home: Reflections and Prayers, published by the Claretian Publications in 2023. He is also the Translator of the Novena to Saint Anthony Mary Claret (from the Pangasinan language to English), published in 2015, and the Novena kay San Antonio Maria Claret (from the Pangasinan language to Filipino), published in 2020.