“Joy” Himself: A Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

My singing career had an unlikely breakthrough when I was in high school.

I became part of a group and we became the amazing singing sensation jumping from one gig to the next. Our calendar was full and we were in demand. But our gigs were not in clubs or bars. They were not in auditoriums or concert stadiums.

They were in wakes.

Yes, you see it right.

Wakes.

I still remember how our big break came when during a relative’s wake and funeral, we rendered one sentimental song after another bringing everyone to tears. Boy, were we proud. We were the “Imelda Papin” (in case some of you reading this still know the famous singer) of the “death genre” (I made that up!). Our measure of success was the number of people who cried after we sing our songs. Morbid, eh?

But our glory was short-lived. Before we can even begin to plan our “concert tour”, I had to leave Davao to study college in Manila. Sadly, we had to break up. And that’s how the world was deprived of what could have been the next big thing after the Beatles.

But kidding aside, I think that’s how most people gauge a successful religious event nowadays. They ask, “How many people cried?”. You may have your own story of how a retreat master tried his best to use all kinds of dramatic effects, from the timbre of his voice to lighting effects, to make sure the participants would weep, as if the success of the retreat depended on the volume of tears shed.

No wonder many people think that Christianity is supposed to be sad — that to take your faith seriously meant the end of your fun times in life.

This is far from the truth.

On this third week of Advent, we are reminded of the joy of following Jesus.

Joy is not a life without challenges but a life which sees God’s victory in every challenge.

Joy is not a life of having everything but a life of having the thing that matters most.

Joy is not a life without failings but a life of hope that is bigger than all failings combined.

Joy is not something you achieve but something you receive.

Joy is not a self-help concept that you work into your life, but a spiritual truth that you accept into your heart.

Joy is not something you aim to get, but something you already have but you must aim to bring out.

To have joy, you don’t need another program but another person.

Jesus.

He is “Joy” Himself.

Give it a try.

This season, spend more time in church than in the mall.

More time in recollections than parties.

More time in front of the Bible than your gadget (unless your bible is in your gadget).

Believe me, you will realize that Christmas is not just about fun.

In fact, it’s all about “Joy” Himself.

Enjoy the rest of this blessed season, my friend!

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YOUR RESPONSE MATTERS

When you reach a dead end, don’t look back. Look up.
When you don’t know where to go, don’t keep running. Keep listening.
When you fail, don’t give up. Stand up.
When you are afraid, don’t run away. Pray and stay.
When you are exhausted, don’t retire. Fan the fire.

You have no choice on what the world will throw at you. But you always have a choice on how you will respond.

How you respond truly matters.

LET HIM BE YOUR WORLD: A REFLECTION FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT

“Papang, can I have five more minutes to play before we leave?”

I am often confronted with this request from my children whenever I pick them up from school every afternoon. The request to stay in school a little longer evokes from me mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I am glad that they love their school — Cradle of Joy Centre for Learning. On the other hand, I kind of wonder, perhaps in my mid-life crisis sentimentality, if my arrival in their school every afternoon was good news or bad news to them.

Then I realized, that in much the same way, people perhaps have the same attitude when it comes to Christ’s return, whether it be His daily coming into our lives or His second coming someday.

Some people get so attached to life that the arrival of Christ is not so good news to them. Perhaps that’s why people avoid death or any talk of it. Perhaps that’s why people do not take the signs of our times seriously. Perhaps that’s why we try to hold on to life as much as we can.

But among my four children, my youngest Marco has a different reaction whenever I arrive. The moment he sees me at the gate of the school, he drops everything he’s doing, runs up to me and gives me a tight embrace. In a blink of an eye, he gives up his turn on the slide; he gives up the swing; he turns away from his playmates, and yes — welcomes me with open arms.

Then I can’t help asking myself: Will I have the same reaction when Christ comes?

You see, Marco’s reaction was typical of a 2 year old. Nothing is more important to him than seeing his dad. I am his world. But as children grow older like my 3 other children, their worlds expand. Somehow, dad is no longer their world but just becomes a part of that world. Not bad, mind you, it’s really just part of growing up.

But the tragic thing is this: This can also be true with many of us when it comes to our faith.

The older we get, our world expands. Our world becomes filled with careers to manage, bills to pay, dreams to achieve, marriages to keep, and children to raise.

God simply becomes just a part of it, if at all.

And then cancer strikes. Or a near-death car accident happens. Or your precious marriage falls apart. Or losing a child.

Then you begin to wonder: Where is God in my life now?

This Advent season, we are reminded that Christ will come to us. May we be like Marco, excited and eager, dropping everything and running to His tight embrace.

The Bible says that we should be eagerly awaiting Christ’s return:

“…we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)

Let Him be your world — now and always.

A blessed first week of Advent to you, my friend!