Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hospitality on Christmas

We went to a non-Christian country during the holiday season. There was a holiday spirit but not necessarily a Christmas celebration. People were coming from different places to have a vacation. We looked for a place where we feel welcome as visitors. But no one bothered. Everybody was too busy with their own stuff. Everybody was settled in their own comfortable places. We stayed in a backpackers inn as there were no more available hotels during this time.

It was quite an experience going to our inn. We had to walk for almost a kilometer from the nearest train station before we could reach the place. We walked carrying four big luggage plus our backpacks while tagging along 3 kids and walking on sore foot and broken ankle. When we reached the inn, the inn was full. We had to wait until late in the afternoon because the room still needs cleaning and the previous room occupant has not yet checked out. So we had to wait in the crowded lobby - standing. It was really a tiring but learning experience for me.

Our Christmas vacation made me reflect on the story of Mary and Joseph as they were traveling to Bethlehem and were looking for an inn that night. All the inn was full. Maybe they were as tired as we were, NO, much more tired as they had to walk and ride the donkey while we rode the bus and train. They had to walk for several kilometers while we only did one. We were fortunate to find an inn, although we needed to wait before we could settle in, but Mary and Joseph had no room for an inn. And so they settled for the manger. Our Christmas story this year was quite an experience that will change my perspective of the merry making holidays. Hospitality takes on a whole new meaning. The Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and the unborn baby changed the world. Do we have a room for them in our hearts?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent and Christmas

It's not yet Christmas. It is December. But it is still Advent.

December 25 is Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Below is an Advent Sermon I delivered during the Simbang Gabi on December 20 in Kamuning UMC leading to the Christmas Season.

Advent: Waiting for the coming
Luke 1:26-38

Who among you already had their Christmas party? How many of you opened their gifts already? How many of you have their gifts still wrapped? We are teaching our kids to also wait until Christmas. We already gave Christmas gifts to our kids as early as November, but they are not yet opened until now.  This will be the message for us this early morning.

We are on the third week of Advent. Advent is a season of waiting – hopeful waiting. I hate to break the bad news, but in the Christian calendar, it is not yet Christmas. It is still advent, the season of waiting – a time of anticipation and expectation… expecting for the coming of Jesus and anticipating for that day to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day, and hopeful waiting for the second coming of our Lord.

Our story this morning is about that anticipation period. The time before Mary gave birth. This is the time when Mary became pregnant and had to wait for that first Christmas.  This was about a little teenager girl. Imagine a girl – in a patriarchal society, she is considered a second class citizen. This is a child – in a society, she is innocent and without experience. She was given a task by God and the task is big – to bear a king.

Let us focus as our story tells us that Mary will be pregnant. She will be expecting. She will be waiting for nine months until the boy whom Israel has been waiting to be their messiah will be born. I remember princess Kate and prince William when she got pregnant with her baby two years ago. It was all over the news, people were excited, not only English people. People were waiting and anticipating, they even camped outside the palace and the hospital during the due month. She will be the mother of a future king. People asked, “is it going to be a boy? lalaki kaya? Healthy ba yung baby paglabas? Guapo ba?” How did the Princess feel? Ano kaya yung iniisip niya? Ano kaya yung pressure sa kanya to be expecting a baby king? But that’s for a princess. How about the commoner? Yung ordinary pregnant women?

What is it like to be expecting a baby and waiting for it to be born? I had a patient who became my friend (Gina) who wanted to get pregnant. They were expecting to get pregnant for years. They waited for the baby to be born. They got pregnant after more than 7 years of waiting. While they were waiting, they were also preparing. While waiting for the baby to be born, there needs to be preparation. As doctors, we help the family, the father, especially the mother to prepare for the coming of the newborn baby.  

Pregnancy is a time of preparation. “Nine months of preparation yan.” You need pre-natal care. We make sure the mother is healthy. Regular check up is needed to make sure no infection that will jeopardize the pregnancy. We need to provide nutritious food and vitamins to the mother. Also given is vaccine to the mother to make sure no  infection happens. Then we need to monitor the baby inside that it is healthy. We do an ultrasound. We check the movement of the baby and the position of the baby. We also tell the family to prepare a baby bag ready to be brought during the due date. We ask the mothers to prepare a duster during that day. We ask the father to prepare diapers, ready some medicines that will be necessary during the birth.

Pero hindi ko pa rin maintindihan hanggang ngayon, kapag may nanganganak at dinala sa ospital yung tatay wala pa ring tsinelas. Kapag hiningi mo yung lampin, yung mga gamit, dextrose, gamut wala daw. Wala din daw dalang pera pambili ng gamut sa botika. Emergency daw kasi kaya nakalimutan. Nine months siyang nagbuntis, they were expecting for this day for nine months pero wala pa rin preparation. Emergency pa rin. Hindi napaghandaan.

The Advent season is a time for us to prepare ourselves as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Most of us are unprepared for that coming of Jesus. As Christians we are like Mary, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. That is the good news. The Holy Spirit has filled us. Within us, we bear the image of Christ. But many of us are not ready to give birth to the image of Christ.

We fear and doubt that great things will be accomplished. We cannot do it because we are too small, we are too weak. We are just simple people. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 winner is the youngest winner. She is a little girl. She is only a teenager, 17 years old. She is Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani. She is advocating for women to be educated. She wrote a blog for this advocacy because the Taliban ban the education of girls in their country. When she became famous because of this advocacy, the Taliban tried to silence her and shoot her in the head. She survived it.

Educating little children and forming them in Christian values is a preparation for these children to become willing instruments of Gods plan. We need to prepare them early and properly to become willing instruments of God. The world will experience the saving grace of Jesus in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, pulling down the wicked, finding the lost, through the body of Christ today.

We join the anticipation of the pregnant Mary. She anticipate the birth of a child who will deliver Israel. Mary was told that his son will be the king who will reign over the house of Jacob forever. We anticipate that day when the hungry will be filled, the rich are sent empty, the sick healed, the humbled lifted. As Christians, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the image of Christ. We wait with hope, we wait with joy, we wait in solidarity with all who suffer. We wait knowing that it will come. As we wait, we know that God is with us as all of us are pregnant and filled by the Holy Spirit. The challenge for us, are we ready and willing to give birth to Jesus Christ in our life?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Welcome to the Children's Christmas Party

Welcome to the Annual Christmas Party of Joy Kiddy Garden Learning Center. 

This event is very important and special for our kids and for our family. It has actually become a sort of family tradition. We have been coming to this party every year for the last four years because my kids are here. Two years ago, my daughter Neya and her friend Ayela were the ones singing. This year my son Ken and his classmates are celebrating Christmas. Next year and the following years, my pamangkin will still be here so andito pa rin kami. So it is like a family tradition. Speaking of tradition, the Simbang gabi every 5 o’clock here in the church is another tradition that I invite you to attend. Lalo na bukas, because joy Kiddy is the host. Lalo na at guapo daw ang speaker bukas. Artistahin.

I would like to share a story as a reminder of what our Christmas party is all about...
Once upon a time, there were two siblings - a little princess and a little prince who was invited to a birthday party of a king. They were so excited to go to the party because they know it was going to be fun, with lots of games, singing, dancing, yummy foods, and they know that the prince will also give away gifts to those who will attend the party. The boy prince was excited what will be the games in the party? How will he win the games? Will there be good prizes for the games? The little princess was also excited with the party. She wants to wear her pretty dress going to the party. She wants to dance and sing. She was also curious what will be the gifts the baby king will give to them for attending the party. They enjoyed so much the party that they were excited for the party again next year and the following year and the following year.

At the end of the party, the king said he will give away special gifts to his friends who attended the party. The king said he will give mansion castle/house and lot to all his friends. And so the prince and the princess were excited because they participated in all the events in the party. They were pretty sure that they will receive the special gift from the king.

So, the king was giving away the gifts to his friends, and then the prince and the princess came to the king ready to receive their gifts of a new mansion castle. But the king, asked them, who are you? Are you my friends? The prince said, your friends are my friends. I joined them to celebrate your party and I also played the games and won prizes. We are friends. The princess said, I came to your birthday party in my prettiest dress and I dance and sing and had fun in your party, we are friends.  But the king said, I don’t know you. Even if you celebrate and join my party during my birthday, you did not bother to know me. You never talked to me, you never came to me and greeted me, you never played with me, you never approached me. How can I be your friend? Coming to my party and enjoying it does not make you my friends. You should approach me, talk to me, play with me, build a relationship with me, that’s what makes friendship.  A birthday party only becomes special celebration and fun if you are friends with the birthday celebrant.

As we have our Christmas party, I hope that each one of us here are friends with the birthday celebrant – the king of kings and lord of lord, Jesus. Merry Christmas and I hope we will all have a fun and special celebration with this Christmas party.   

Thank you and God bless.