Christmas Joy Lives On

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By: Julie Anne Loong, for the North Star

How can the Spirit, especially in this time of Christmas, remain alive in our tiny islands when something happens and affects the lives of over 50,000 inhabitants? It is only possible through God, and it is a mystery beyond our human understanding.

Two months ago, the record-setting Super Typhoon Yutu had winds strong enough to make concrete houses quake, tore the roofs and boards off thousands of homes and local parishes, uprooted trees impossible to be moved without heavy equipment, and left hundreds of members of the community displaced. It was an event that proved our will isn’t God’s will, but that His will is always in our favor including what we think might not be.

Bishop Ryan posed for a group photo with the Simbang Gabi Group after the rst day of Misan Aguinaldo. The group organized the Simbang Gabi in Mt. Carmel Cathedral every year.

Photos of food, drinks, and clothing being distributed all over social media, successful fundraisers, and the fact that we are alive today are all proof that He never abandons us.

The typhoon was yet another opportunity for the island to gather together in prayer, support, and love for God and for each other. Neighbors helped clear their neighbor’s yards. Families gathered closer than they have in years. The lack of electricity allowed us to remember the beauty of the nature that surrounds us. The time away from what we are used to brings us to recall the days that God has saved us, even more so now in this time of Advent.

Christmas is quickly approaching, and although the recent catastrophe still has a number of residents waiting to have their electricity reconnected, the wait for the Nativity of Jesus Christ is one with true hope and joy.

“The celebration of Christmas, with this current condition of recovering and rebuilding, is a reminder to become humble and that Christ is calling us to simplicity of life. Simplicity meaning to go back to the essential things in our lives: to people who are important and places, circumstances, and events that are important to us. This leads us to simplicity and humility,” said Father Allan, OAR, as a message to everyone during this time.

Some families have already put up holiday lights and Christmas trees, but this is not the situation for the families who currently reside in tents provided by relief efforts. These are the families that are called to remain happy and undeterred by their living conditions, for Christ, Himself, was born in a manger.

Marilyn Parnes, a parishioner of Santa Remedios Parish, was one of the people whose home Yutu did not spare. Despite her current situation, she was optimistic when asked about how she felt about the season. “Christmas still remains. Even though the typhoon hit us, we still need to celebrate. We should all remain positive. This is a time of preparation. I don’t mean preparing for food or parties, but for our spiritual well-being. That’s what I’m more focused on preparing.”

Tes Marquez, another parishioner, stated, “The Christmas spirit continues. People still go to church and attend mass. Those left devastated after the typhoon still have smiles on their faces because Christmas is coming. Christ is coming and this makes me happy. My house was not destroyed, but the families with houses that were damaged are now in the process of recovery, and so I am happy for them.”

The Aguinaldo Masses inglead up to the Christmas day are a chance to begin everyday with the Lord. The Belens that are missing the figure of Niño Jesus, the completion to the Nativity Scene, adds to the excitement we should all be feeling for when He arrives.

Men and women have been working day and night to restore our lives back to the comfort of the way they were pre-Yutu. People from around the world have donated goods to those who are in need. The government has offered tremendous help to all that it could. However, God has something greater to offer and has already offered, which is His Son.

Two months ago, Super Typhoon Yutu destroyed houses, but not families. It shook concrete in the same way God wanted to shake us to wake up and be ready for His coming. It took our belongings, but not our spirits. We as a church are guided and blessed regardless if we think otherwise. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, along with Saint Joseph and the animals that were with them in the barn in Bethlehem. The shepherds came, and the three kings brought their gifts. The Savior was brought into this world, and the same Spirit and joy of Christmas from then lives on to this day and to the end of the days.

Bishop Ryan Jimenez greeted a family after the rst day of Simbang Gabi at Mt. Carmel Cathedral last Saturday, December 16, 2018.

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