Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jesus is my Firecracker

We Filipinos always want to welcome New Year with a bang. Our most popular choice in doing this is using firecrackers. There are also other means like trumpets and drums. Of course, we should celebrate the New Year especially if we see it as a time for a new beginning, a new start, a time to change for the better. We always want to start the New Year right as we hope for a good year ahead. But should we celebrate with firecrackers, especially us Christians? I will argue that it is unwise for us Christians to use firecrackers. I will offer three insights on why Christians should not use firecrackers after giving a short background on the significance of firecrackers.

The use of firecrackers is a Chinese tradition that we Filipinos inherited. In a capsule, Chinese people welcome their new year with the loud sounds of firecrackers to scare the evil spirits away. They complement it with the dragon dance, red color and lots of circular shapes that all symbolize prosperity and good luck. This is their way of starting the New Year right - driving demons away and welcoming prosperity in. As the Chinese have become part of our Filipino community, we have assimilated their tradition. We have adapted their tradition of welcoming New Year in the hope that we may also be prosperous like most of our Filipino-Chinese brothers and sisters. We light up the air, make noises and wear lucky colors and shapes in hoping for good luck and good health for the New Year. However, is it wise for Christians to also use firecrackers?

Firecrackers will not make us healthy. In fact, they are hazardous to our health. Every year, hundreds of people seek medical attention due to firecracker injury or poisoning. Last year, the DOH reported 613 firecracker-related injuries from the period of Dec 21, '08 to Jan 3 '09. Of those injured, 24 underwent finger or hand amputation, 116 suffered eye injuries and the rest had blast and burn injuries. The use of firecrackers is risky for our bodies and health. The Bible reminds us to take care of our bodies, the temple of God. Caring for our bodies’ means walking away from risky and insignificant practices that nay hurt us

As Christians, we are to be stewards of this Earth. It is unwise for us to engage in practices that contribute to the destruction of our world. The smoke that comes from the firecrackers increases the carbon in the air that causes the environmentally destructive 'greenhouse effect.' Add this to the fact that the debris and empty shells of the firecrackers add to the pile of everyday garbage. The production and use of firecrackers also wastes our energy resources. We must be responsible stewards of Gods creation. Let us therefore refrain from hastening Earths destruction.

As Christians, we do not believe firecrackers have the power to defeat evil like Jesus does. Only Christ has the power to defeat evil. As Christians, we also do not believe in good luck. Our hope for a prosperous New Year does not lay with luck but with Jesus Christ our Messiah. He delivers us from harm and evil. Our faith in Christ is complete that He will do great things for us, things that will prosper us and not harm us. I do not mean in a simplistic way that Christianity spells prosperity. But we can boldly say that it is in Jesus Christ where we put all our hope, our future, and our successes. We don’t have to make the loudest bang of a firecracker, because Jesus is the firecracker that will bless us through the New Year and always.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Ninth

Save the best for last. The last morning watch today was very artistic and symbolic. The theme centered on the light of the world - Jesus. The songs focused on Jesus being the light. The sermon centered on how Jesus brings light to our lives. The whole service was then highlighted by a very meaningful candle-lighting ceremony. This for me was very symbolic. The whole place was enveloped with darkness with the turning off of the lights. Add to this the fact that it was still dark outside. Only the Christ candle was the light on. The Reverend Boni then lighted a candle from the Christ candle. Then he lighted another persons candle, and another and another and another. And the lighted candles lighted another and another and another until the whole church was bright with candle lights. The candle lights were our only lights throughout the service. It kept the place bright until the Son (sun) was shining light to the whole world. It was already morning when the service ended and the darkness of the night was now replaced with brightness. Jesus has now given light to the world. Christmas is here. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Eight

Today is probably the most humbling message that I have heard. Putting the delivery aside, I was so blessed by the content of the morning devotion today. The theological assertions were so sound and were very challenging too. One of the point is the intentionality of humility. The other point that really made me pause was the kind of humility we know and the kind that God demands.
Christian humility is different from being humble. Much more, our humility does not come from us but a humility that comes from God. This I guess, and rightly so, distinguishes human from Christian humility. This is the humility that Abraham, David and Mary exhibited when God demanded their obedience. I pray for such humility that I may serve and obey God rightly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Seventh

It was a quick and short one. The sermon that is. Time flew without me noticing it. Two more worships and the Simbang Gabi will be over too. I don't want it to be over. I'm getting used to this. I could do this forever, waking up early and worshiping God the whole time. Well, that seems like what angels do in heaven. I guess I'll have my time to do that someday. But for now, everything seems to happen so fast. Sometimes, even life is like that. We think we have a lot more years ahead and tomorrow is eternity. But when we pause and look back, it was too short a time. Time passed without us knowing it. And we haven't done a thing. But what are we supposed to do? A lot. I'm rambling here. I'm overwhelmed. It's just ironic, when everything happens fast, the sermon message begs us to slow down and be patient.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Sixth

I can get used to this. Waking up early when everyone is asleep and getting ready ahead of everybody. The Simbang Gabi as a worship service is a good morning meal for the spirit.
It was not that I had a full stomach from the breakfast served by the Abrahams, the worship services were such blessings. The words of God and the songs awakened my soul. I went out of the church energized and renewed. Despite my handicap, I felt healthy and strong. This is what a worship does to our spirits. It gives us renewed strength to face the challenges and stresses of everyday life. We usually enter the church enveloped by a dark world but after each worship, we go out and see the light. The word of God gives light in this dark world and hope in this desperate times. It is our food for our souls. It keeps our spirits healthy and strong as we battle temptations everyday. The more we face battles, the more we need food. When one is hungry, one ask for more. And I am, so I will look forward to more food for my soul.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Fifth

The youth were leading today. I remember when I was a UMYF, how I used to see things differently. I loved being involved in the church.
I was preoccupied with the thought that after the morning watch there will still be the regular Sunday service. The morning watch ends at 6 and the first regular service is at 7am. I wondered if there was going to be anybody who would take the marathon service. I mean, I could have stayed and check it myself but I was already tired. But I did came back for the 10am service. Its not that I am bragging that I went to two services today, the worship leaders had to be in all five services, that's more amazing. But that's not my point. The thing is, although there are those who are lazy to even go to church, there are also people who are tireless in going to one. The youth exemplified such faith today. They were up early and they would stay until the Contemporary service late in the afternoon today. I could only pray that many more Christians would find similar convictions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Fourth

Fourth Simbang Gabi. I finally had some company. We weren't late too. A pastor was preaching, so we were not subjected to testimonies and speeches (no offense but I have a strong theology about homiletics). The preacher opened with a complaint about not having the luxury to choose the text and the focus of the message. Although it was more of an opening line than a real complaint, it made me reflect back on the significance of Simbang Gabi. I tend to simplify things, so indulge me if I say, Simbang Gabi is but watchful waiting for the coming and birth of Jesus. The question leads to another, how do we wait for Jesus through a worship service? I remembered the time when we were waiting for my first son to be born. We were all waiting but there was no real activity designed for the waiting. We talked about how to take care of the baby. How to become good parents. How Nea will behave as a big sister. When he was about to be born, I was at bedside watching for the signs that he is coming. On the other hand, my daughter and family were outside waiting too. While waiting, my daughter entertained them. We were ready for the new baby but we are still waiting until he comes. We were anticipating and we were hopeful. The same goes while waiting for Christmas. If Christmas is the time where hope, peace, joy and love comes to reign then we prepare for it by practicing how to do it. We give hope, share peace, bring joy and love others even as we await Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Third

Third day ng Simbang Gabi. I am starting to feel the Christmas spirit. Indeed, the lights, the decors, the cold air, the early morning service and the traditional church breakfast sets the tone for me that it is Christmas time. That is not to say that these things define Christmas. But we must acknowledge that for us humans who use our human senses, it is important for us to see, hear, feel, smell and even taste Christmas. Christmas in our hearts are prepared and also intensified by the things, events and people around us. For example, when we did not have any Christmas decor in our house last week, I panicked. We have forgotten to do our traditional Christmas tree decorations. Now, the tree serves as reminder that it is Christmas and it is the season of life, hope and love. My 3year old daughter was asking me where is our Christmas tree and why she did not get to hang decors if is is Christmas. These material things serves as reminders to us. That is why it is important for us to give importance to these symbolic things. Such could be Simbang Gabi and as the days go by, may we feel Christmas more in our hearts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Second

This is the second day of Simbang Gabi. Let me share what 'typically' happens. Since I was late yesterday, I vowed I will be early today. So I set the alarm, to 430 am last night. Of course it alarmed but I slept it off until 511am. I have to rush my preparation, washing up and dressing all in 30 seconds. Yup. Then I have to drive up to church with a blurry windshield. I have to zoom the car to get a 15 minute travel down to 5. I was able to arrive right at the end of scripture reading. At least I got to hear the sermon, the "most important" part for us protestants (you know what I mean). However, it did not really matter if I arrived before or after the sermon. I wasn't listening. Although I heard the preacher talk about the three trees and something about Jesus ignoring the bad news of Jairos daughter's death, I wasn't listening to God's word. Probably because I was late again. I did not want to have a partial worship. I want to go the whole nine yard. So I said, tomorrow will be another chance. I just sat at the back and went through the rhythm. I just resigned myself to that thought and instead enjoyed the fellowship with other churchgoers. The breakfast was a hot arroz caldo. It was so good I had to ask for seconds. My tummy was satisfied. The meal was the highlight of my Simbang Gabi. Hopefully tomorrow the highlight will be the meal for my soul.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Simbang Gabi: First

I was on the first night of simbang gabi. The first question that popped in my mind was what was the theological significance of it. I searched it over some old books and over the internet. The most common answer is usually historical. They claim the practice began during the Spanish era when people went to hear early mass before they went to their farms. This was done for nine straight days as a novena. It eventually became a superstitious belief that completing it would give the devotee their wish. But I thought the theological significance lies on the drama of the worship hour. The mass was a morning watch to anticipate the birth of Christ on Christmas. The birth is said to be signaled by the roosters crow thus called Misa de Gallo. Worship was done to await the birth of Christ. I like the theological meaning of watchful waiting. And the mass done at dawn break was symbolic of the hope that the Christ brings, a light to this dark world. That was something to reflect for this season.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

AIDS has just become a byword in this medically oriented world. When people talk about AIDS people talk about the virus and how it can be transmitted and how it can be avoided. Of course those are important topics. But people seem to forget about the person with AIDS. It is not that people cannot put a face to the disease but rather again because of the too much medical emphasis on the disease.

As we observe World AIDS Day let us remember the persons affected by it and the families that suffer with them. Let us pray for them that they may have strength and hope in their time of trials. That they may feel the love of God through the people around that care and support them and with the concern of all the people. Let us make this day not just a day to educate people about the disease but rather a moment where we can show our solidarity with PWA who are our brothers and sisters.