Celebrate Christmas this year in a more spiritual way amid pandemic – bishop

Published December 5, 2020, 9:47 AM

by Christina Hermoso

As Roman Catholics mark the Second Sunday of Advent on December 6, a Catholic Church leader called on the faithful “to make the celebration of Advent and Christmas more meaningful this year despite the pandemic.”

In a Pastoral Instruction titled, A Deeper Advent and Christmas, Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo reminded the faithful “to make Advent and Christmas happen” despite the pandemic and the recent natural disasters.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo

“Christmas is already in the air. Even with COVID-19 and the series of typhoons that visited us, we see signs of Christmas around us. The air is cooler and the night longer. Christmas decors are being set up in the streets and in the stores,” Pabillo said.

“Now and then we hear Christmas songs. However, within us we sigh, how will Christmas be this year? It will surely not be the same as the previous years. Let us not just take the Advent and Christmas seasons as they come. Let us make them happen, yes, in a different but also in a more meaningful way. Perhaps the limitations that the pandemic impose on us can make us celebrate these seasons in a truer way,” the prelate added.

Pabillo encouraged the faithful to celebrate Christmas this year in a more spiritual way rather than consumeristic which has been the norm before the pandemic.

“In years past, we have been accustomed to external and consumeristic ways of celebrating these seasons. The malls and the stores had dictated our Christmas. Nowadays, despite the gradual lifting of restrictions, many of us still hesitate to go to the malls and we also have become more conscious on how to spend our money. But we continue to celebrate, though in more subdued ways. Let us bring Advent and Christmas to our families with prayers, family religious services, and joy. Prayers are available that can help us pray together as a family,” he said.

Pabillo said families can celebrate Advent at home by making an Advent wreath. He also encouraged the faithful to go to confession, receive Holy Communion, and to attend the Simbang Gabi masses. He urged those who cannot attend physically to do so online.

“Let each family make an Advent wreath that can decorate our tables or our family altars. With prayers, songs, and Bible readings, the family can gather together during the Sundays of Advent to light a candle in expectant hope for the Lord’s coming. There will be many online Advent recollections. Let us take time to participate in them. With the gradual easing of lockdowns, the sacrament of confession is more readily available in our parishes. Let us go out of our way to go to confession on one of the Advent days. The Simbang Gabi masses continue,” he said.

The bishop encouraged the faithful to decorate their homes particularly with a Belen and to make the Baby Jesus the center of the celebration.

“On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, let the family be gathered together and make the day memorable by singing together Christmas carols and have some family games. We discourage parishes and parish organizations to have Christmas parties as a precaution against the spread of the virus. But Christmas parties can be done in the homes among family members. There we can sing together, share stories, and have some fun as a family. Family members can give each other handmade Christmas gifts and hand drawn Christmas cards. Let not COVID-19 lock down our Christmas joy and family togetherness. God has come down to be with us. We accept Him together as a family in our homes. Let us be creative this year in celebrating God’s presence among us. We do not allow COVID-19 to deprive us of Christmas joy. God is with us!” Pabillo stressed.

Meanwhile, today’s Church rites will include the lighting of the candle of peace, the second purple candle in the Advent wreath. Also known as the Bethlehem candle, the second purple candle “serves as a reminder that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that Jesus is King,” said Church officials. The first purple candle, the symbol of hope, that was lit last Sunday on the First Sunday of Advent, will also be lighted.

According to the Church, the progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four-week Season of Advent, it mirrors the darkness of fear receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world.

Confessional prayers will be recited during the Eucharistic celebration as part of the period of anticipation and waiting for the Second Coming while preparing for the celebration of the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.

Celebrated with great anticipation and hope, the traditional theme for the Second Sunday of Advent is God’s Divine Love for Mankind.