"I’m waiting.” This is my grandson’s favorite line while he stands with arms casually crossed. He knows that when it’s finally his turn, it will all be worth the wait.
The season of Advent—with its symbolic candles—is like this. We wait.
For four weeks, we watch, anticipate, and prepare for the arrival of Jesus. With each purple candle comes a longing to ask for and give forgiveness, while filling the heart with hope, love, and peace. There is one more candle—the only one in pink or rose—called gaudete and it signifies joy. We rejoice, for the coming of Jesus is at hand.
In many seasons’ past, our enthusiasm would build up over the four Sundays of Advent.
Once, my cousin shared a secret: “Shhh… I wrote Santa, and I kept the note under my pillow. I asked him for a walking doll with long, black, curly hair, and big eyes that could wink.”
“How sure are you that Santa would find your note?” I asked.
"I drew an arrow on my pillowcase,” she replied.
By Christmas, my cousin paraded around her winking doll. “Why not write Santa? I’m sure he’d give you something, too,” she urged.
Taking her advice, I wrote, “Dear Santa, I don’t want a walking doll, but I would like a miniature tea set from Japan.” I got my wish.
Santa wrote back, “My dear child, I am terribly sorry, but the tea set was not properly fired in the oven. Here’s a Japanese doll instead.”
Hmmm, a Japanese doll? Why, she even looked identical to the one on top of my mother’s dressing table.
That was the first and only time that I wrote to Santa. I dismissed it as just one of those doltish things that could happen when your heart was not totally in it.
To take my mind off it, I followed the family-honored tradition of visiting godparents.
My godmother, Tita Michiko-san, was tall, regal, and beautiful. She was born and raised in Japan. She always made heads turn because of her striking resemblance to the movie goddess, Ava Gardner.
I watched her glide down the steps of her grand staircase holding a gift wrapped in washi paper. In her broken English, she gushed, “Go, go, open my gift, neh? I buy for you in Nippon (Japan). You like, neh?”
Thinking they were Japanese kukki (cookies), I feigned excitement.
Whoa! My face fell like a cookbook cake when I saw its contents—a miniature Japanese tea set. You know, the one that Santa “failed” to deliver?
Through the years, Christmas evolved. It was not centered on material things anymore, but on doing works that opened the heart—radiating joy, both warm and calming. It was like having more “Christ” at Christmas.
In 2019, no one expected COVID-19 to rear its spiked head—bringing fear, misery, and death. It strained every nerve as we adapted to stricter measures to protect and keep one another safe. We stopped going to church. We limited our movements until this web tool enabled us to see and talk with each other, without leaving home.
In one livestream Mass, the presider asked, “In this time of uncertainties, do we get distressed over the seeming rift and distance of God from us? Is He still here?”
When Advent tells us to watch closely, we do not fix our gaze far beyond the pale horizon. We look around. Where? To our right, to our left, over our shoulders, and even right under our noses.
Is Jesus that near? He is. In the grieving widow, in the abandoned baby, the mistreated orphan, the displaced refugee; in the ailing, the persecuted, the jobless, the nobody, the weary, and the forgotten. Each has a face. Each one takes on Jesus.
Recently, some womenfolk distributed hot meals to vagabond children. Peals of laughter and singing simultaneously erupted. “Pasko na ba?” cried a young boy. “Patikim pa lang yan, anak,” said the mother who gave him a tight hug.
It was like a dam that released a flood of happiness. A good flood. While the chicken and rice satisfied their hunger, this kind act filled them with disbelief and awe. Someone even sang, “The glow of your being outshines every star.”
The message was simple. Change happens.
In our imperfect world, Jesus remains the one constant reason why there is Christmas.
To bring joy to everyone. We pray that it stays. Our waiting is never in vain.