The smoke from the grilled fish has dominated the house, used plates pile up in the kitchen and the karaoke has been up since morning. It's past 7 pm and this is what our home looks like a few hours before Christmas. This is the first time in over a decade that we are celebrating it together with Papa and it's been so long since the house has been loudly playing old Tito hits. My favorites are on the table - Carbonara, Sinugba / smoked fish, and the ever-present Mango Float and yet, in celebrations like this, I tend to eat a little and crave a lot the next day. I don't know if it is just me but leftovers taste better on holidays, don't they? 

    Around almost midnight, my childhood friends came over and it's nostalgic being in the same room together. We usually reminisce about the old days and laugh about a lot of things but this year, we ended up trying to hold back tears as we remember another childhood playmate whom we lost to COVID a year ago. Oh, how we miss him. My heart mourned again realizing how a lot has changed and how this neighborhood will never be the same as how I remember it each year. 

    My day ended around 2 am and before I know it, my sister and I were back in the city for the last service of 2022. The church had lunch together bringing leftovers from last night and right after, we traveled back home. The roads are surprisingly clear unlike how I imagined them and the trip is sadly short. Although traveling has never been one of my favorites, I have grown to love the unique peace I get on bus rides. 

    Back home, the singing has never stopped with a new batch of my relatives taking over. It's funny how I managed to watch one episode of the series I'm currently loving with all the noise outside. 

    I guess I slept early after that because I found myself awake around 1:30 a.m. My sister is still up binge-watching episodes of the same series and here I am freeing a few thoughts to help me sleep again. Looking back at how I spent my days up until Christmas Eve, I realized that I have never had this quiet time since the start of the month. I feel like December came by too fast and now I'm down to the last five days of it. The holiday rush, the parties I had to attend, and the external commitments made it easy for me to lose track of the time. It is honestly shameful to proclaim how Christ should be the center of the season when most of the time, I am overwhelmed by the gatherings and the preparation that comes with it, leaving me with rushed prayers and shortened readings.

    I am thankful still that I have this downtime to place my mind and heart back to where they should be. Of course, I have enjoyed every party I have been to and was glad to be reunited with family and friends. I am also grateful for the thoughtfulness of loved ones who extended gifts and the warmth of those who remembered to greet me with a happy Christmas. But right at this moment, when the table is cleared and the music is finally turned off, my soul rejoices in contentment. 

I rejoice in the truth that I have nothing good to offer to a Holy God, whom I have sinned against, yet He sent His Son into this world to be the offering. 

I rejoice in the truth that a glorious God took on flesh to rescue me from my own rebellion. 

I rejoice in the truth that Christ loves me and died for the salvation of undeserving sinners like me. 

I rejoice in the truth that one day, Christ will come again and the struggle against sin and the pain of this world will not matter anymore. 

    I sigh deeply knowing how easily I can forget about this tomorrow (or later) but then again, the beauty of God's love is that it continues to pursue even the forgetful ones, that it patiently sustains the weak and unceasingly loves and sanctifies us until His work is accomplished. 

    It's 3:52 am now and I will sleep with a refreshed mind and an encouraged heart. Dear reader, may you also have a meaningful time and a wondrous celebration.  See you around!

- N