Christmas 2020 - Victory - Honor God. Make Disciples.
Beyond the Series Part 2: A Joy-filled Christmas in 2020

Beyond the Series Part 2: A Joy-filled Christmas in 2020

“Our joy springs from the truth that our Savior was born. We shouldn’t let any outside circumstance or event steal that joy from us.” In this article, Pastor Paolo Punzalan shares how we can make this year’s Christmas celebration more meaningful.

 

What is one of your family’s favorite Christmas traditions? How has this tradition been affected by our current situation?

We have several Christmas traditions. Putting up the Christmas tree is one of the most important for us as a family not just because it signals the start of the celebration, but because it’s a memorable family event every year. It’s a walk down memory lane. The first thing we put on the tree is the first ornament Jen and I had as a married couple. The kids grew up knowing the story behind that ornament. Then each one that would follow has its own story. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness throughout the years. Another important tradition is reading the Advent story. When the children were young, we used a storybook, but now we use the passage from Luke. Then we take turns sharing our insights. This year, one of the insights shared was God’s very precise timing. If God can make sure that light from a star would travel years in advance so that people during Christ’s birth would see it at that exact moment, we can be sure that God can bring His perfect timing for everything in our lives. It’s so amazing to hear how God speaks to them through the story; it’s different every year.  It’s also our tradition to buy toys and goodies and make loot bags. We drive around the city to give them to street children. It’s our way of teaching our children that Christmas is about giving, not just receiving.

  

How are you making this year’s Christmas celebration exciting and meaningful for your children? How would you want them to remember Christmas 2020?

We aren’t really doing anything different this year. We may not have as many guests at home and have shifted our gatherings to online platforms, but it’s still the same. This year, we did not do the usual loot bags, but we gave to the relief operations for those affected by the recent typhoons. The method may have changed, but what we are doing and why we are doing them remains the same. We also did not do the usual advent where we would invite several people in our home, but we had it online. In fact, we just had one for our village. Circumstances around us may change which may result in changes in the manner we celebrate Christmas, but the spirit behind this celebration will never change.

In one of my Christmas gatherings this year, I asked everyone, “Given the choice, would you have rather had a different 2020?” Personally, my answer to my own question is yes and no. Yes, because we couldn’t have physical gatherings, people lost jobs, and went through so many challenges. This has been a faith-stretching year for everyone. But at the same time, this year brought unprecedented growth. The growth in terms of relationships in families, dependence on God, and faith to believe that even if you no longer know what to do, you are certain that God is right there with you and He will act on your behalf. In spite of everything that we lost this year, there was also a lot we gained. I would not want to lose all that.

 

With everything that has happened this year, how can we, as Christians, celebrate this season and at the same time make it meaningful to others who may be going through a difficult time?

It’s a fact that 2020 took a lot from us. But what it has given us is clarity. Crisis creates clarity, and what this year made clear to us are the most basic yet the most important things. Yes, Christmas this year has been stripped down to the smallest of gatherings, but it should not take away our joy. This year clarified the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on events, on things around us. On the other hand, joy runs deeper. Our joy springs from the truth that our Savior was born. We shouldn’t let any outside circumstance or event steal that joy from us. At the same time, we also acknowledge that all of us went through so many challenges and most of us are having a difficult time. I think celebrating this season with a joy that comes from a grateful heart—reflecting on all the little things we’ve taken for granted in the past years—would make this Christmas season more meaningful to us and to those around us.

 

Pastor Paolo serves as the senior pastor in Victory Fort and has been married to Jenn for 25 years. Together with their four children and growing family, they continue to serve not just in the church, but also in their community. 

Beyond the Series is a set of interviews on topics related to our sermon series.

Beyond the Series Part 1: Celebrating Christmas in 2020

Beyond the Series Part 1: Celebrating Christmas in 2020

“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.