Christmas is about accepting

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Advent, Third Simbang Gabi, 18 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14 ><]]]]'> Romans 1:1-7 ><]]]]'> Matthew 1:18-24
Photo from vaticannews.va, 14 December 2020.

We are now at the final stretch of our Advent Season, getting closer to Christmas Day with our gospel today directly telling us how it all happened. And it was not very easy – in fact so difficult – just like with most of us in our many experiences in life when everything did not go so well as planned.

It would not be surprising at all that so many times, many of us would have also thought of giving up, of letting go everything like St. Joseph!

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19

Christmas is a story of accepting difficulties in life especially persons dearest to us suddenly thrown into challenging situations. Exactly what happened to St. Joseph and Mama Mary.

Many times in life, we advise people going through problems to just simply accept how things are –“tanggapin na lang” – with some sense of resignation as if there is nothing we can do.

Sometimes it is true but many times, not at all true like with St. Joseph’s predicament. He accepted first Mary and then Jesus on a totally different manner worthy of our emulation. It was not out of resignation to the situation but was first of all focused in accepting and valuing persons.

St. Joseph decided to silently leave Mary because of his great love for her. He did not want to expose her to shame and public humiliation that would surely result in being pregnant with a child not his. He did not merely accept the situation as if it were his lot to be “scooped” out by somebody else faster than him with Mary. Keep in mind how the evangelist described St. Joseph as a righteous man, a holy man that despite Mary’s pregnancy, he loved and valued her so much, totally as a person. His leaving her silently was a testimony to his great love and respect for her!


We demand "understanding" in order to "accept" 
without realizing that it is different 
with persons and with life in general 
when we must first "accept" in order to "understand"!

Unlike with us these days when everything has to be explained and spelled out in details before anything or anyone may be accepted. In this age of instants, we want instant explanations too on everything before making any decision, demanding many information to understand anything.

And everyone.

We demand “understanding” in order to “accept” without realizing that it is different with persons and with life in general when we must first “accept” in order to “understand”!

That was exactly the accepting attitude of St. Joseph. He might have not totally understood everything when explained to him by the angel in a dream. Imagine how very difficult it must have been to listen to instructions and explanations in a dream that are already difficult to grasp when done in normal circumstances while awake. But that shows the great maturity and deep spirituality of St. Joseph, of how he accepted everything told to him by the angel in a dream that upon waking up, he absolutely obeyed God’s instruction by taking Mary as his wife.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Basilica of San Padre Pio, Italy, 2017.

One of my favorite singers is the late Marvin Gaye whose 1971 hit What’s Going On I have used extensively in lessons and recollections to young people. Its lyrics are so poetic yet so deep, with its first two stanzas calling for “loving” before it could lead to “understanding” at the third stanza after the chorus. It calls for acceptance first of everyone, of respect so we could love and understand more.

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
Oh, what’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)

People can never be understood really. There are some people who are truly difficult to understand or as we say, “mahirap ispellengin”. Many times in life I have learned that we simply just have to accept everyone as unique, that God comes through everyone in each one’s uniqueness and peculiarities.

Situations become more difficult to accept unless we accept first the persons involved.

That begins with our very selves when we have to set aside our pride, our own good, even our own plans and agendas like St. Joseph in order to let God lead us truly to fulfillment.

Very often this is the problem with us when we insist on ourselves, on our own ideas and own plans. We get blinded with what we know and even with what we believe in like King Ahaz in the first reading.

Photo from Aleteia.org, “Let Mum Rest”, 2019

St. Joseph as an accepting person was also a very welcoming man like St. Paul in the second reading who took pride in being called and sent by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. A truly accepting person is always a welcoming one, full of warmth and joy because he/she has Jesus!

See the beauty of St. Joseph’s acceptance of God’s plan: when he accepted Mary, that is when Jesus came.

Thus, we must first accept God.

If we truly accept God, we must accept others as his gifts to us. No matter what.

It is in accepting others with all their differences when Jesus Christ truly comes.

When we learn to accept and welcome people, that is when Christmas truly happens. Not only in December but all year through! Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for coming to us daily
not only in our very selves and the many
events that happen to us but most especially
among people you send us;
there are times they are good and so faithful
like St. Joseph who are easy to accept;
but there are also times, they are very
difficult to accept or even understand
especially when they happen to be those
closes to us whom we also love.
Teach us to appreciate the value of silence
like St. Joseph so we may be accepting like him
because it is in our accepting of people and difficult
situations in life when you often come.
Amen.

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