“Celebrating Christmas is like a beacon in the night. In the midst of the darkness, it points you to something that will never be shaken—God’s love.” In this article, Bishop Ferdie Cabiling and his wife, Judy, share the importance of celebrating the season.
What was a typical Christmas celebration like in your family? When your children were growing up, how did you explain the reason for celebrating Christmas to them?
Judy: Establishing Christmas traditions has been part of the discipleship and mentoring I received from our church leaders. Early on, we learned the importance of not letting the season pass us by because of busyness and instead be focused and deliberate in ensuring that we have time to explain to the children what the season is about. That is why even before December, we plot all our family activities on our calendar and start creating that sense of anticipation for the birth of the Messiah. We start with setting up our Christmas tree, which is a family event for us. Then we read the story of the advent to continually remind our children why we are celebrating this season. The dynamics in our Christmas celebration changed since last year, when our eldest got married. But building that sense of anticipation for the coming of the Messiah stayed the same.
Will you be celebrating Christmas this year? Why do you think it’s still important to celebrate Christmas at a time like this?
Bishop Ferdie: Battling with a pandemic does have an effect on this year’s Christmas celebration. As the spiritual head of my household, I want my family to celebrate Christmas, but as a pastor, I understand the current “cancel culture” that wants to cancel not just this year’s Christmas celebration, but the entire year. This year may have been full of challenges, volatile, and ever-changing, but as a believer and follower of Christ, we have to hold on to who God is because He will never change. As a Christian family, we hold on to that. This year may have been very shaky, but God’s love, demonstrated by the fact that at one point in history He sent His Son to the world to suffer and die for us, remains constant. That is why in spite of everything that is happening around us now, we still have all the reasons in the world to celebrate Christmas.
Judy: I also feel people’s cry to cancel 2020. It’s like a force that tries to press on you. But all the more I realize the need to celebrate Christmas no matter what. It’s like a beacon in the night because the meaning of Christmas is even more visible now. I feel like I was with Mary and Joseph during that first Christmas, stressed and confused with everything that’s happening. They knew they were carrying the Savior of the world, and yet there was no place for Him to be born. But in the midst of all that, angles burst into song and shepherds worshiped God. That’s just like what’s happening now. We are in this darkness, but the fact remains that our Savior has come. This makes this year’s Christmas even more memorable.
Knowing that this year has been a very difficult year for a lot of people, how can we celebrate Christmas in a way that would be relevant to others around us?
Bishop Ferdie: In a way, this pandemic can enable us to extract the real meaning of Christmas. In the past, the definition of Christmas could be summarized in one word—consumerism. We were conscious of what we wear when we go to the malls or to parties, and measured the importance of people by the amount of gifts given or received. But this year stripped us of all that and left us with just the bare minimum. We are down to the real essence of Christmas—love. That’s why I believe that in the future, we will look back at this year’s Christmas and say, “That was a beautiful Christmas. I did not have much to give, but I gave my whole heart.”
Judy: I agree. All of us are experiencing suffering right now in varying degrees and forms, and we are all doing our best to cope with the situation. But this pandemic also opened the hearts of people and made us see what really matters in life. Our celebration this year may not be as extravagant or festive as the previous years, but it is no less meaningful. On the contrary, with all the noise gone, the real meaning of Christmas becomes louder. I think the beauty of the simplicity of our Christmas celebration this year will be relevant to people around us.
Bishop Ferdie and Judy Cabiling have been married for 29 years and are blessed with two children. They surrendered their lives to Christ when they were still students and have been serving our church since it was established in 1984.
Beyond the Series is a set of interviews on topics related to our sermon series.