Nine years ago, I moved to the United States from the Philippines. I packed my bags, said my goodbyes to my dearest friends and family, and left almost everything that was familiar to me. When the plane landed after a twenty three hour flight, the curiosity of a new place overpowered my craving to go back home. However, as the weeks went by, the butterflies in my stomach never fully went away, and I still longed for everything that I left behind. From something as simple as the seasons changing, to something as complex as adjusting to a new culture, I had to try and adapt. I noticed everything, and I compared them to what I knew. I even noticed that the size of the food servings are different, and there were so many kinds of cheese!
As Christmas approached, I remembered feeling overwhelmed by how different it felt to celebrate Christmas in a whole new country. The dark skies caused by the cold, dreary winter, the unfamiliar atmosphere, the significant distance between me and my family made me feel so alone. I was jealous of others who could celebrate Christmas with their family. I focused on external happiness to distract myself from the change. However, looking back, this has been one of the biggest lessons of my life. As we say in our responsorial psalm, “Peace be within you! Because of the house of the LORD our God, I will pray for your good.” Even though I was away from my family, the reason we celebrate Christmas is because of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing externally should change that, and we should always find peace within ourselves through our faith, and our relationship with God. He will always be available to comfort us if we let him. Especially when we listen to him closely.
In today’s second reading, the St. Paul writes: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.” As Christmas approaches, most of us forget the true meaning and the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. The excitement of placing the colorful ornaments on our trees, the endless gift shopping and gift wrapping excites us for the holidays. However, we must not forget that Christmas is not all about materialistic rewards and external happiness. As we enter the Advent season, we should devote this time to not only prepare for the holidays, but to spiritually prepare as well. By doing this, we not only celebrate God in simple ways, but we give ourselves the gift of peace, which is one of the greatest rewards we can give to ourselves and radiate to others!