ADVENT is a time of waiting for the celebration of Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.  And as I wrote last week, it’s also a time of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom when Jesus Christ will come back in His glory to judge the living and the dead.

As a period of waiting, we should observe  it joyfully, not anxiously. We should approach it spiritually, not materialistically. This means that it’s not just a time consumed with parties, shopping for Christmas gifts, other leisures and fun, but a period filled with inner joy of seeing the depth and beauty  God’s love for humanity through the birth of His Son, Jesus into this world..

One must possess spiritual eyes and grateful hearts to experience this inner joy. One must be amazed at the power and generosity of God. He is God who reigns in our lives and the universe. He is God who wants us to feel both his quiet presence and remarkable  engagement in our lives.

Our days this Advent then should be filled with moments of quiet  prayer and yearning for serenity, wisdom, and happiness.

Here are 10 tips to celebrate the true spirit of Advent and Christmas.

1. Get away by yourself to a quiet place, removed from the noise of the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the season. Sit quietly and thank God for giving you life, wonderful family and friends, and providing you with your needs. Acknowledge His love and power over you. Thank Him for the works of His Son, Jesus and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. See the works of the Trinity during this season.

2. Look delightfully at every gift that you receive and every party you celebrate. Appreciate the giver and not just the gift. Recognize the presence of everyone in a party, not with any tint of arrogance and judgmental attitudes, but an openness to receive the other person into your life.

3. Celebrate Advent liturgies in your Church like the Reconciliation Service where God gives you the opportunity to express your need of His forgiveness and compassion and your desire to be at peace with yourself, others, and God. Allow God to level down  the high mountains of your pride and indifference.

4. Participate in some works of charity for the poor and desolate. Share your blessings with  those who are less fortunate. You can do it by wrapping a gift(s) for  a struggling family or by sharing a hot plate of food with a  homebound and lonely neighbor. You can also visit someone in the hospital or convalescent home. Become a source of joy and consolation  for those who suffer.

5. Share your talents  this Advent Season, be it in cooking, singing, dancing, artwork, or   humor.  If you think your don’t have artistic talents, your smiles, presence, affirmation, and love are enough.

6. Don’t be shy about telling your family members and friends that you love them. Shower them with affection and love.

7. Reach out to long-lost friends. Surprise them with a telephone call. Renew friendships. It may be the best thing that can happen to you this Advent and Christmas.

8. Fast from engrossing yourself in social media, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram. Engage in “real time” meaningful conversation with those who are next to you or in front of you at mealtimes. Rest your mind from the waking effects of cell phones and computers before you go to sleep.

9. Observe your eating habit this Advent and Christmas season. Control your appetite for unhealthy food such as those dishes and desserts with high sugar, fat, and salt. As a temple of God, keep your body healthy with proper diet, exercise, and enough sleep. For exercise, take a walk around the neighborhood if you don’t go to a gym. Breath the fresh air in the morning and take in the rays of the morning sun.

10. Start each day with joyful expectation and hope for God’s blessings and end it with a sincere prayer of gratitude.

I hope that these 10 tips will help you prepare with ease and joy the coming of Christmas. Have a Blessed Advent!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014. 

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