Advent Devotional: Giving! Philippine Christmas Traditions

December 20, 2013

Scripture: John 3:16, 17 NLT

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3: 16-17 NLT).

While living in the Philippines, Kay and I became part of our community.  One year our neighbor asked us to go with her to midnight mass in the Roman Catholic cathedral in the town plaza.  “Yes, of course!” we said. This would be our first experience for such an event. With anticipation and wonder, we joined the throng of families crowding through the old, well-weathered doors.  Huge lighted stars and other symbols hung on lines across the church. There was a nativity scene with sheep and donkeys. The robed choir singing a medley of Christmas carols meaningfully expressed the story. A priest, robed in white, read Luke’s birth of Christ followed by a message about God’s greatest gift, His Son. We watched in awe and wonder as the worshippers slowly shuffled forward to receive communion .

After returning home, close neighbors began dropping by with gifts: decorated dishes of specially prepared meats, tarts, rice cake and candies. The early morning hours were filled with exchanges throughout the neighborhood. Our concept of Christmas took on a deeper meaning.  Giving reflects our Father’s nature, love, being more concerned about others than self.  This year as we give our cards and gifts, let us reflect our Father’s heart.  Give from a heart of love, spreading the joyous Christmas message. Remember Jesus said,

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NLT).

Generosity truly inspires a “Merry Christmas!”

Author: Robert A Bickert is married to Kay and is a retired missionary educator and church planter.