Advent is a time of hope, of remembrance, and most importantly, of happiness. In Panama, Christmas songs are heard in each house, garlands and ornaments emerge from seemingly forgotten boxes, nativity scenes inhabit living rooms, and elders crowd around young ones, telling them their favourite stories of Christmases long past. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved counting down the days until Christmas sweeps by, watching as it leaves behind a trail of trees and lights and everything we know and love.
One of my favourite Advent traditions is going to the business centre area — which is in one of Panama’s most important (and busiest) streets — and taking pictures in front of the nativity scenes there. It started all the way back in 1991, when the insurance agency ASSA moved to the street and set up a nativity scene during Advent. The tradition caught on, and now every Advent the entire street is decorated with a nativity scene in front of each building.
The figurines are life-sized, so every single detail is noticeable – from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s light blue dress and rosy cheeks to Baby Jesus “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12) to the camels and... everything
. The scene is so ethereal with the streets illuminated and children’s laughter ringing throughout the street. Everything just screams HOPE.
Photo credit: Ana Valeria Luque
This year, it’s a little different. I’m not sure if taking pictures in front of that beautiful nativity scene will be possible, so I’ve created a tradition of my own. It consists of continuously worshipping and adoring God through his servant, the world’s most beloved tenor, Mr. Andrea Bocelli, during and before Advent. His Christmas songs, especially “Angels We Have Heard On High” (you might know it as “In Excelsis Deo”), bring hope and love — the definition of what Advent truly is. I think I’ve listened to that song approximately 1,800 times in the course of one month!
2020 has been one of the most memorable years of this century, and it’s impacted each and every one of us, even if we don’t want to admit it. But as it says in John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Christmastime will always be our ever-shining lamp, reminding us that eternal life has been made possible thanks to Jesus’ birth. God sent Him so that we could be saved, giving us everlasting hope that we remember every year during Advent and Christmastime.
And even though we might feel at times that COVID-19 has seemingly extinguished hope, we must remember that it hasn’t. As long as we have our family, our faith, and Andrea Bocelli (I’m kidding… or am I?), the spirits of Advent and Christmas will never leave us. We must trust God, placing all our hopes in Him and putting everything in His hands. After all, like St. Faustina Kowalska said, “A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God.”
Fourteen-year-old Ana Valeria Luque lives in Panama City.