I got to the mall at 10:30PM on a Thursday night after taking the train. I was surprised to see so many people still at the mall that late at night. Some were hanging out. Some were about to watch the last full show. While most were doing their Christmas shopping.
The Christmas decorations at the mall were lovely. Christmas songs were being played. You can really feel that Christmas was coming.
The only problem was I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel the Christmas spirit. No matter how lovely the Christmas trees were, no matter how many Christmas songs I listened to, no matter how much traffic I had to endure (okay, let’s not count this one; the traffic situation is terrible all year round), no matter how cold my December was getting each day literally and figuratively (kidding), and no matter how much I try to prepare for it, I just couldn’t feel that Christmas was coming.
After attending mass yesterday, I finally understood why. I wasn’t preparing for Christmas the right way. Instead of preparing to receive Jesus, I was focused on preparing for the parties, the gatherings, the gifts, and the festivities. Instead of preparing for the coming of Jesus, I was so busy worrying about “making Christmas fun” for myself and for everyone else.
So, how should you really prepare for Christmas? I’ll keep it simple. It’s by preparing your heart to receive God.
The Christmas season is really one of waiting. It’s a reminder of the time when Israel was waiting for its Savior, the Messiah. It’s also a season of preparing – preparing for His coming.
That’s why the Gospel reading yesterday was about how John the Baptist was preparing the way of the Lord:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. – Mark 1: 1-5 NAB
So how should you really prepare your heart for Christmas? Again, let’s keep it simple:
It’s not a coincidence that John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance. It’s difficult to receive God’s saving grace, His blessings, and His salvation when you are carrying heavy baggages of sins, shame, resentment, and regrets. These emotional and spiritual baggages are blocking His blessings from flowing into your life and preventing you to reach your dreams.
You have to let go of them by repenting. Some questions to ask yourself:
“Have I asked for forgiveness for the wrong things I’ve done?”
“Have I forgiven others for the wrong things they’ve done?”
“Have I forgiven myself?”
“Have I let go of my insecurities and prayed for the people I envy instead?”
“Have I let go of my past?”
Repentance is not just asking for forgiveness and not doing the same things over again. It’s also about doing good, living more, and following Jesus. Think about this: the people who repented during the time of Jesus, more often than not, followed Him. That’s why it’s important to prepare your heart first and let go of the things that hold you back before you are able to follow Jesus completely.
Jesus did not come just to forgive our sins. He came to give us hope as well. When you have let go of your past, the next step is to prepare for a bright future – a future filled with hope. You have to believe that no matter how dark your past was, you can still create a bright future.
I love what Jason Mraz said in his song, 3 Things: “I design my future bright not by where my life has been. And I try, try, try, try, try again.” Your past does not define your future.
Some questions you can ask yourself are:
“Do I know what I want to happen in the future?”
“Do I know where I want to go?”
“Do I know what I want to do?”
“Do I know how I want to feel?”
Don’t just design your future in your mind. Put your desired future on paper. Write it down to always remind yourself of your goals, your hopes, and your dreams.
No matter how painful, how broken, and how miserable your past was, your future doesn’t depend on it. Your future depends on how you will act today, tomorrow, and the next day. Your future is up to you.
Are you now ready to prepare for Christmas the right way? Are you now ready to receive God’s blessings, saving grace, and salvation? Repent. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. And keep your hopes up for a bright future.
PS. Tomorrow, we’ll do our annual life audit and prepare our plans for next year (and even for the next five years)! Visit the blog again tomorrow and design your bright future!