The forgotten honoree

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A gentleman decided to throw himself a birthday party. He rented a banquet hall, hired a caterer, sent the invitations and spent the whole morning decorating the venue. He was so exhausted that he decided to take a nap, so he could be refreshed and ready to celebrate with his friends and loved ones. But he overslept.

By the time he woke up, the party was over. The food was gone, the band had left and the caterers were cleaning up. "If it was my party, why didn't they realize I wasn't there? If they came to celebrate me, how come nobody looked for me?" he asked.

Christmas without Christ as the root of the celebration is like to going to someone's party and forgetting about the honoree. This was a story my mother would sometimes tell when my cousins and I got overly excited about presents, food and music leading up to Christmas Eve.

A couple of years ago, I remembered the story about the forgotten honoree. My husband and I were so preoccupied packing to visit family for Christmas that we did not notice that our dog almost knocked down our Nativity scene. The Christmas "retablo" that grandma had given us as a wedding gift was caught just in time. But the scare reminded us why we were going to celebrate with family: God's gift of his Son to the world.

Christmas is not just about commemorating the historical event that happened over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. It is a season of joy and hope because the God of all creation comes to share his life with us. Yet, it is easy to get caught up in the tasks before the festivities. In our rushing, we can forget about what's most important.

This is why the time of preparation of Advent is key. We are invited to prepare our souls, hearts and lives for the coming of Jesus.

"A better Advent is the truest path to a merry Christmas," wrote Father Ed Benioff, former director of new evangelization for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Advent brings opportunities to reflect and renew our spirit as we meditate and celebrate the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

Father Benioff said that ways to prepare include being more attentive at Mass, going to confession, making peace with someone. To "keep Christ in Christmas" also includes caring for others, helping the less fortunate, and showing more patience and compassion.

Have you seen different Nativity scenes from around the world? Often these scenes are tied to local realities and priorities — yet the Christmas message is the same. God coming as a vulnerable baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no place in the inn. Another priest, Jesuit Father Richard Malloy, once said, "That child is among us as the homeless and the hungry, the lost and the last, the lonely and the least."

The seasons of preparation and celebration are chances to let God awaken and enlighten our hearts. In a way, our lives are an endless Advent. The anticipation of Christ's birth is like the anticipation of the second coming of Christ — and how we need to be ready for it.

May Christmas this year be a time you celebrate in hope because Jesus' birth brings joy and peace, justice, mercy and love. And may you continue following the light of faith that Jesus brings.

Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017