Remember the reason for the season

Published 5:58 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

By Chris Quilpa

As the world continues to battle with COVID-19, let us continue to pray for healing, unity, reconciliation and recovery, and to hope for a normal, peaceful, healthier, safer and better life during the Advent season leading up to Christmas, a new year and beyond.

As we, faithful believers and sinners, prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus once again into our hearts and homes, commemorating His mysterious incarnation and His continued inspiration into our lives, let us remain vigilant in our faith and belief that anchors us to do good and be of service to others always.

Advent is a special season of hope, and the source of hope is Jesus Christ. It is the season to pray and to know more about this source of hope. He came down to bring peace on earth and goodwill to all men (and women). His love for us was incomparable. His life on earth was truly remarkable and incomparable, an inspiration to us all. The Good News he brought us has lived through the ages and will continue to be heard throughout eternity.

As Advent season is now in full swing all over the Christian world, we have the opportunity and ample time to hope, to pray more, and to listen to the inner voice within us to change for the better, to forget ourselves so that we can be of service to others; to preserve and to protect our fragile world, our environment and the ecosystems that comprise it, and to share what we have so that in the end we would get well and better, and recover from our past mistakes and misfortunes.

This Advent, we have ample time to grow with our faith, with all the holiday dazzling, glittering, twinkling lights put out there for us to see, with all the beautiful decorations that are delightful and pleasing to our eyes and others, with all the holiday cheers and tunes we hear enticing us to sing along with glee and reminding us of those nostalgic memories.

Back home in the Philippines, purportedly the country that celebrates the longest holiday Christmas season in the world, it’s a fact that, once the ‘ber months (September, October, November, December) start, it’s Christmas season.

The “Misa de Gallo” (Dawn Mass or Rooster’s Mass) and “Simbang Gabi” (Night Mass) are a Filipino Christmas holiday tradition dating back to the 1600s. A series of nine consecutive Masses, from Dec. 16 to 24, these festive church events involve sharing of faith and fortune, time and talents, and later on food with families, friends and others who are gathered together thanking, praising and worshiping God for life and everything we are blessed with.

By the way, Simbang Gabi has been celebrated in the U.S. and other countries where there are large communities of Filipinos residing. In the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, this Filipino Christmas novena celebration is held in those designated churches across Virginia, like the one at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Church of the Resurrection, 3501 Cedar Lane, Portsmouth. For those interested in attending, call Amy Hill at 757-383-0478 or visit www.richmonddiocese.org/event/simbang-gabi.

We also have the “Noche Buena” on Christmas Eve, where each family and its members pray and partake whatever food is prepared on the table. Opening of Christmas gifts will follow as Christmas songs are played on the radio and/or carolers at the front door knock and begin to sing. On Christmas Day, we go to church with our best clothes, then visit our godparents ready to give us our presents. Carolers continue to go around from house to house spreading the good news, the birth of Baby Jesus. The holidays continue throughout the New Year and even Three Kings.

But, despite all of this fun, food, laughter and merry-making, let us not forget the reason for the season. For Christians, Jesus is the center of our life. We are, after all, his brothers and sisters.

May your Advent and Christmas be filled with hope, faith and joy, love and life, compassion and charity, peace, serenity and harmony.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.