Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church
The Gift of Life
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Christmas Day, 25 December 2009, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 98, Isaiah 52:7-10 and John 1:1-14.
God of life, may your Word lead us to your truth and understand your will. May Your Holy Spirit guide your servant to speak and bring you glory. Amen.
Last night after the Christmas Eve service and the Christmas celebration when we left the church, the street was full of people. Christmas is a time many people, especially young people go out for dinner and celebrate.
Why do people celebrate? What are they celebrating? To you, what is the meaning of celebration at Christmas?
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The gift of life is the theme of today’s message that I wish to share and invite your reflection on this.
Why is it important to celebrate someone’s birthday?
1 Grateful for the gift of life
Last Sunday, Peter and Winkie held a party for Christine, their second daughter to celebrate her two year old birthday. Do you remember the first time you or your family celebrate your birthday?
When I was a child, our parents like many others in that generation, would not celebrate birthday for their children. As a result, I organized birthday celebration for myself when I was 10 years old. I remembered I had invited classmates and neighbors for the party. It was a great joy as we had a time of great fun. What made me so pleased was that I received birthday presents from friends that I had never had before.
As I get older and older, I still remembered my birthday. But I started to have difficulty to count my exact age after I was 30 years old! Moreover, I have a deeper thought of the importance of birthday celebration. As time goes by, I gradually realized that I should celebrate my birthday with my mother and for her. Why, it is simple. My mother gave me this earthly life. I would not come to this world without my mother. Some fathers here may protest that I did not mention my father. Of course I should include my father for the birth of my life. But to tell you the truth, I feel closer to my mother. My mother and father did not only give me a biological life, but also nurtured me with their tenderly love. Without their love and sacrifice, I could not become who I am now. Therefore, birthday celebration has to go to the life givers. After becoming a Christian, I find that celebration with and for the ultimate life giver, our holy God of creation is also very important. Birthday celebration is never something only for personal enjoyment and gratification. It is not just for receiving birthday gifts. But it is a time to remember and give thanks to our life giver on earth, our parents, and, in heaven, our God of creation.
When we celebrate Christmas for the birth of Jesus, our focus should be on the life giver: God. Christmas with its religious origin from Christianity, has become the most popular and commercialized celebration in our secular world. Christmas parties, Christmas presents and Christmas decorations are everywhere in the city and all over the world.
It is the privilege of Christians and the responsibilities of the church to retrieve and share with others the truth meaning of Christmas in the midst of a highly commercialized world which has emphasized too much on consumption and entertainment. Christmas is a time to celebrate the gift of life, a life that is given by God, our Holy Almighty.
When we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, gratitude is the first thing we have to give to our Lord God. Life is valuable and precious. God came to the world through Jesus Christ to share his life with us and to give his life for us.
2 The gift of abundant life
Very truly, life is precious and holy, but in reality there are many people who do not appreciate their lives. Many of them do not live happily. Why? I think the reasons could be many. They could be economic hardship, health problems, relationship problems, traumatic experience in the past not yet healed, pressure at work and in school, marital problems, wars and so on… The list can be endless. Many people, including you and me, face different kinds of problem in life because we are living in an imperfect world. There are a lot of alienations in personalities and distortions in relationships because of evil human practices and the unjust systems. The gift of life that Jesus gave to the world was to heal the wounds and to bring a new life. Jesus Christ said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6) He is life-giver. He is the life himself. Christ is the light to shine upon darkness. God does not only give us life but through Jesus Christ, he came to give us abundant life. As quoted from John 10:10, “Jesus said I came to give life, a life of abundance”. Abundant life is a life that people can enjoy love and joy, hope and peace. The gift of life that promised and given by God is a life in full.
3 A promised life to God’s children
God incarnated in this world through Jesus Christ is a great mystery. According to the bible, it is through our reception and belief in Jesus Christ the son of God, that we are given the right to become God’s children. This is a great promise indeed. To know that we are children of God confirm ourselves of who we are. We are not someone being abandoned. We are not someone unimportant. We are created in this world with a purpose according to the will of God. This is very much empowering. When we are given the right of becoming God’s children, we are not born of human will and human flesh, but of God. This is a great joy to all.
The mystery of God’s incarnation through the life of Jesus Christ on earth is a profound breaking of the boundary between the human world and God’s world. From this miracle offered by God, we are able to have a eakthrough and move beyond the present limitations in life by following the footsteps of Jesus Christ, to lead a life with God and for God.
The words of God are encouraging for they empower us to engage in the transformation of our present imperfect and distorted world to a world of wholeness where God is the center.
Through Jesus Christ we are able to become God’s children, and we may then have a new understanding of our identity. This new identity is empowering to God’s children for we are no longer isolated and we are never abandoned as we are wanted and are somebody in the eyes of God.
The gift of life from God is love. The golden verses taken from John 3:16, say, “for God so love the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.”
God is a God of life, life of eternity. The new life, life of abundance and life of eternity are for all people in the world. The promise of life is a life in wholeness, that is the true meaning of peace. People who live in God are embraced by love, joy, hope and peace.
God has called each one of us to be his child and to develop a close personal relationship. God calls us to be His children and lead a life according to his will. This calling is personal and yet never individualistic. Our Lord is God of this universe. Our Lord is also a God of community. God’s salvation is to all people in the world. As the creator of this universe, his salvation covers the whole world including mother earth, the nature.
Christmas is a season to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the giver of life. Christ is the Light of the world that shines in the darkness. God’s salvation is to the world. In a highly capitalized and competitive society that we are living, we have been greatly influenced by the philosophy of individualism. People become more and more self-centred. Even amongst Christian community, there is a tendency for believers to focus their faith and practice towards individual salvation.
God is not only our personal savior, God is savior of the community and the whole universe. All lives on earth will be saved by God.
The birth of Jesus Christ and the life that Jesus has promised to give reminds us to lead a life of love and giving like Jesus. We have to remember we have a common life that is shared with others in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The gift of life given by God is the essence of Christmas. God’s incarnation through Jesus Christ is to bring new life of love and joy, justice and peace. God’s salvation is prepared for the whole world. In the birth of Jesus Christ, God has used his holy power to reveal himself and his plan of salvation. God intends to let all people in the world see it. God has given this great gift to the world. This is we human kind to respond by seeing the salvation of God in Christ, through the eyes of God.
Praise and Raise
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 20 December 2009, Fourth Sunday in Advent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Micah 2-5, Hebrews 10:5-10 and Luke 1:39-55.
Our God of Trinity, guide your servant to speak Your words according to Your will. May the Holy Spirit lead us to understand Your Truth. Through Jesus our Lord we pray, Amen.
In the season of Advent, today we come to the fourth Sunday, the last one before Christmas on 25th December.
Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. During this time of waiting and preparing for Jesus Christ, according to the scriptures, God has sent his servants to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus.
In the last two Sundays, we had learnt from John the Baptist who was chosen as God’s messenger, God’s servant to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
On this day 2009 years ago, two women came to the scene in God’s salvation plan. They were Elizabeth, John’s mother, and Mary, Jesus’ mother. They are honored by people after them as mothers of two great men who had done great things for God. It was however, at that very moment, these two women were disturbed by what had happened to them. Elizabeth was embarrassed to bear a son in her old age. For Mary she was astonished by her pregnancy as she was still a virgin and not yet married.
When Mary was told by the angel what was going to happen, she was deeply troubled as described in the gospel story. Mary was faithful to God and was clear of her loyalty to be God’s servant. When the angle came to her telling her that she would become pregnant and give birth to a son, a son of God, she said to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said”, as recorded in Luke 1:38. Mary had prepared herself to do whatever God had asked her and planned for her. Although she was faithful to God, Mary did not stay alone. She took immediate action. She went to visit her relative Elisabeth to confirm the words of the angel.
To find the truth, Mary had taken the first step with courage. When Mary and Elisabeth met each other, it was a beautiful picture of friendship and assurance of God’s blessings to both of them. Such a gathering and encountering was very comforting and empowering. Through the Holy Spirit, they were able to affirm one another of their unique experience and callings from God. The reaction of the baby inside Elizabeth has affirmed them and has helped them to make sense of their experience. Their trust in God and their faith in God’s fulfillment according to his plan has greatly empowered them. Their companionship with each other had demonstrated strong solidarity. Showing solidarity was powerful and important when they faced such life crisis. Sisterhood in Christ is very much needed and recognized. This is also a blessing from God indeed.
Being empowered and affirmed of her calling from God to fulfill his plan of salvation, by bearing God’s child, Mary presented to us a beautiful song of praise to God. This song of praise offered a refreshing and powerful vision for us to understand God’s salvation to human kind. This song of praise had offered a new vision of God’s world order which was very much different from the earthly world order.
Mary’s song of praise was developed from a woman’s perspective. It has given us some new thoughts and reflections.
Mary and Elisabeth lived in a time and society that was patriarchal and of male dominance. The status of woman was low. This patriarchal culture was reflected in the bible in which names of women were rarely mentioned. The voice of women in the bible was invisible and their experience was seldom recorded. When the names of ancestors were mentioned in the bible, most of the time only men were listed. But in this song of praise, Mary had offered us a new horizon to understand our God with a gender perspective.
First of all, Mary praised to God for his mighty and holiness. God has affirmed the worth and status of woman. God has chosen women to fulfill his salvation plan. Women could be God’s faithful servants to God’s calling and act according to the will of God. Not only did God choose women as his servants and co-workers to serve in a significant plan that affect the whole world, but also God chose people of ordinary status.
Joy and hope come from the fact that God will raise those in low position as regarded by the society. God will raise them to high and regard them as precious. God will give those who are regarded as insignificant in society, of low social status, important mission to do. Mary, Jesus’ mother was the significant representative.
Mary represented the woman of low status, her values and contribution was affirmed. She received blessing from God and recognition from generations after generations. This is what the Mighty God has done for women. This is a vision for women’s liberation. This is good news for many women whose contribution and value are not recognized. God’s recognition to women is a liberating message for women who have been suffering from different kinds of discrimination, violence and oppression.
It is true that woman’s status has been greatly improved in the past 50 years. Industrialization allows women to work and lead a more independent life, increasing education opportunities to women and civil rights movement for women’s equality, all contribute to the increasing social status of women. However, there are still millions of women in the world who are not treated equally nor with dignity. Women are raped in wars, women are the major victims in domestic violence, and women have high risk of living in poverty, these are still common phenomena in our world.
In the Church Mission Consultation conference organized by the Hong Kong Christian Council last month in November, one of the key directions is to promote gender justice and equality. The churches are asked to promote gender equality in their congregation by recognizing women’s contribution and giving to them equal opportunities to take up leadership role in church setting and society. You may be surprised there are still denominations in Hong Kong (and some other parts of the world) which refuse to ordain woman as church minister. In our marriage ministry at KUC, I have also come across couples who had booked our church for wedding but declined to take female minister to officiate their wedding because of gender stereotypes and male supremacy.
I am proud of KUC for our open and ecumenical stand for gender equality and justice. Given such a good tradition, our church should take this role of advocating gender justice in both the Church setting and in the society.
In Mary’s song of praise, there are two other striking visions I would like to highlight. Luke 1:52 “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” Luke 1:53 “he has also filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” These two visions are very revolutionary. God has offered new visions to redistribute power and resources. These envisioning of new world orders are inspiring and timely in the world where we live.
All over the world, the wealth gap has been widening, the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. From the recent figure revealed, Hong Kong is ranked number one in terms of the wealth gap between the poor and the rich. The majority of wealth possessed by a few rich people is unfair and dangerous to a society. All resources in the world are from God. God loves and care for everybody and thus everyone deserve equal share of God’s gifts. Too uneven distribution of wealth is wrong, accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few people is unjust. The vision of a more equal distribution of wealth by filling the hungry with good things, (that is to give more to the poor). At the same time by taking some from the rich (i.e. sharing of wealth by the rich), is God’s clear direction for the church to pay attention and even work on it. By trusting that God will make this happen according to his will, we have to monitor our government to develop effective policies to bring forth better and more equal distribution of power and social resources.
Recently, the Hong Kong government has launched a political reform consultation. New model of election system for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Councilors is put forward for public opinion. The development of a genuine universal suffrage is important to give citizens equal rights and vote in the election. In the current election systems, the rich and influential people from the political and business sectors, as well as some professionals, are given more votes that allow their interests to be preserved. The development of a genuine universal suffrage is an important step to ensure better share of political power and influence in the public sphere that would bring more benefit and better protection to the grass-root.
The climate summit in Copenhagen was closed on Friday, many environmentalists and national leaders especially those from the poorer countries found the conference unsatisfactory and under-achieving. To cope with climate change and limit global warming, it very much depends on all nations’ cooperation and commitment especially the rich and the developed countries to give more support to the less developed and poor countries. People from poor countries suffer more from the climate change as their capacity to address global warming is much weaker. It is high time for God’s vision -- “fill the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands” be fulfilled.
Mary’s Song of Praise is a focus to God and a total trust of God’s fulfillment to transform the world, to transform the world order that favors the have not, the disadvantaged and people from the low social status.
In the first Sunday of Advent, I began with a message of ‘God’s promise of his salvation’. Our waiting for God’s salvation during this season of Advent is concluded by Mary’s song of praise. This praise song is to acknowledge the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation.
Let us unite in Christ and pray to God for his fulfillment of promise in our broken world. Let us also pray for ourselves and the church in responding to God’s calling to do his will in this time, in this place, in Hong Kong.
Rejoice in the Love of God
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 13 December 2009, Third Sunday in Advent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7 and Luke 3:7-18.
Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. You doubtless noticed that a pink candle was lit at the beginning of the worship. The pink candle represents joy. The theme and mood for today’s service is rejoice: Rejoice in the love of God.
December 10th is the International Day for Human Rights. We have designated today as Human Rights Sunday. When we see people suffering from different kinds of human right abuses across the board, e.g the millions of people deprived of basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter, many hundreds and thousands seeking justice and freedom are jailed and even killed by the authoritarian government, we are witnessing human rights violations. In such a broken world, how are we, as Christians to understand the concept of “rejoicing”? What is the point of the church celebrating?
This morning, a member of our congregation, Jim Seymour, will share with us a message on contemporary human rights in the context of our Christian faith. Jim has been concerned with human rights issues for years.*
Rev. Wong :Rejoice in the love and justice of God.
I would like to start with a by discussing an article that I just read--a recent self defense statement by an environmentalist and human rights activist in China. His name Tan Zuoren (譚作人). In March Mr. Tan was put in jail on a charge of committing subversive acts against the State. He was not tried fairly. While he was in jail he wrote a defense statement to contest the allegations by the authorities. The statement was published by the International Chinese Newsweekly. (29/11/2009)
Tan was active in the civil society work. He was one who advocated vigorously for the investigation of the collapse of school buildings that caused the death of thousands of children in the Sichuan earthquake last year. His self defense statement reflects very much his love of and mercy for people who were victims of corrupted power and bad governance. I have seen the glory of God through Tan, his unfailing faith in holding the truth of justice and humanity.
When Tan was arrested and jailed, he appreciated the concerns from his NGO supporters, his village people and even some departments who stood up against the corrupt court ruling, and praised him for having the courage to stand against the corrupt ruling. He regrets nothing that he has done. He said he has honored his society and community and done his best for the public good, though he does feel regret to his family. He has lived a life with human dignity that is admirable and honorable. The authorities have taken away Tan’s freedom, and yet they have never taken away his soul. Here we see a righteous man who shines in his courage to speak up against injustice, and act according to his conscience.
Tan Zuoren is one of many courageous Chinese human rights. Among others, I remember Ding Ziling, a leader of the “Tiananmen Mothers”; human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng; and the AIDS and environmental activist Hu Jia. Elsewhere, we have many witnesses around the world, such as Ms Aung San Suu Kyi who, has been fighting against Burmese military rule; the human rights activists in the Philippines fighting against extrajudicial killings, and so on.
In every single autocracy or dictatorship, there are people who are not afraid but resist corruption and authoritarian rule. These people have risked arrest and even lives. Their mere existence and resistance to authoritarian rule is a strong manifest of God’s cry for justice.
We rejoice because we see hope in these people! We give thanks to these people and to God for God’s never giving up.
Indeed, the prophet Zephaniah had already proclaimed the word of Lord in a hopeful way. Zephaniah 3:18-19: “the Lord says, he had ended the threat of doom (destruction/death) and taken away the oppressed’s disgrace. The time is coming! God will punish the oppressors and he will rescue all the lame and bring the exiles home.”
The oppressed are no longer captives, no longer slaves! They are set free and live without fear. We are able to rejoice because God has promised his salvation and love to those oppressed and outcast.
Mutual respect and the appropriate use of power are cause for rejoicing.
In the Gospel according to Luke, 3:7-18, John urged the believers to both to turn away from sin, and to do something. The converted then came to him and ask what they should do. John told them that one should use power appropriately rather than manipulate, and to share what one has with others, especially those wanting.
In his reply directed to a tax collector and soldiers, John made it clear that these people, who hold power and position (in terms of money and military force) should be honest and not abuse their power or act in their own interest. Specifically: the tax collector should not collect more than the tax legally due; soldiers should not take money by force or accuse anyone falsely. People in authority should be content with their legitimate pay rather than be greedy.
John gave a clear message. Anyone who is in a certain position with influence and power over others should limit their power and avoid any manipulation to harm others. This is very much related to human rights practice, both in personal terms, as well as in terms of the public welfare. For John, the main point was the importance of officials’ integrity and non-abuse of power.
Human rights are not just something high sounding, but something very down to earth. Human rights are about people’s basic need of food, clothes, housing. Human rights are all about respect to people’s dignity no matter who they are. When John told the converted to share clothes and food with others but especially those without, his teaching of faith practice was very much related to our contemporary concept of human rights. Being kind to other human beings is an important foundation of human rights practice.
When we give and share what we have, it is not a matter of superiors helping inferiors. We share because we take every life seriously, as we are all God’s children. I very much agree with the American Catholic priest Father Thomas Doyle, when he shared his thoughts about the mission of the church. “The primary objective,” said Doyle, “is not to be a church to help the poor, but to be a church to honor the poor.”
We rejoice when we are able to share with one another what we have, because we are taking each other as neighbors. We are all God’s children; all deserve respect and dignity even though when lacking in material things. We are all equal in the eyes of God.
It is not inappropriate that the season of Advent and the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fall at the same time. Indeed, it is high time for us to link up our Christian faith and concerns of people whose human rights are not respected.
We rejoice in the love and justice of God when we are able to respect each other. God makes everything he creates good. Therefore, it is sinful and against the faith of Christ if we keep resources only for our own sake but unwilling to share with others especially who are wanting.
Do we have any business rejoicing in the midst of violence and human rights abuses in the world? Yes, because we trust that our God is faithful, He is God of justice, full of love and mercy. God is right there to stand for the oppressed and the outcast.
Our Holy and faithful God is great. God lives among his people. All flesh shall see the salvation of God through Jesus Christ.
We rejoice that the sharing of power and resources in a respect and loving way has and will continue to enable the world to live a life with joy. Amen.
* The first part of the sermon was given by Jim Seymour extemporaneously. For his full-length sermon on the subject of human rights, see this website under “November 2007”.
The Path of Waiting for God’s Salvation – Be Prepared
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 6 December 2009, Second Sunday in Advent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6.
Lord, open our minds and our hearts to understand the mystery of your salvation. May the words from my mouth be a delight to You and serve Your Will. Amen.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting for the coming of Christ to bring hope and peace to the world.
God has called up people to be his messengers to prepare for the coming of the Lord. This morning, Kit has read the Book of Malachi, chapter 3 for us. Malachi in Hebrew means 'my messenger' or 'my angel'. When the day of Judgment was coming, the Lord Almighty said to his chosen people the Israelites that He would send his messenger to prepare the way for him. In the Gospel of Luke taken from the New Testament bible, God had chosen John the Baptist as messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. God in his participation in human history has called up his people to be his messengers to proclaim the message of repentance for God’s salvation.
John the Baptist knew very well he was called to be God’s messenger to preach the message of turning away from sins and be baptized and God will forgive people’s sins. Like the prophets in the Jewish history, John the Baptist was God’s prophet, he was clear that the ultimate goal of his message was to bring the whole human race (in NRSV version, the term ‘all flesh’ is used) to see God’s salvation.
In John 3:1-6, important political leaders and religious leaders in John and Jesus’ time were mentioned. They included the Emperor Tiberius, the governor of Judaea, Herod the ruler of Galiliee, Philip the ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis and so on. Religious leaders: the high priests Annas and Caiaphas were named. With all these authority figures mentioned in the scene, let us pay attention to the fact that the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. John was not an authority figure in the main stream political and religious systems. But he was called by God to be his messenger. He was called to do something very important for God. Unlike the worldly leaders, John the Baptist was righteous and faithful to God.
John followed the example of previous Hebrew prophets, living austerely, challenging sinful rulers, calling for repentance, and promising God's justice. John the Baptist had called people to lead a life turning to God.
God has chosen messengers to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation, as a preparation for the Lord’s coming.
The title of my sermon today is BE PREPARED. The first point I wish to raise is to prepare ourselves to understand God’s will for human participation in his salvation.
When I heard the readings today, I have a question in mind.
Why does God need to choose messengers to prepare a way for him? For God is so great and almighty, why does he need human beings like John the Baptist to be involved in his salvation plan? Have you ever thought about this?
Why? What do you think? How would you address this question? I have thought of a reason. May be you can think of more. God incarnated in the world in the form of human flesh through Jesus. God had limited himself to become human being. God is not a God detached from human beings. He is not a God that stay away from people. On the contrary, God has been involving actively in human history. In the human world, God allows human beings to participate in his divine plan. God became a man. Incarnation of God through Jesus was a mystery. God allows and invite human beings to take part in his salvation plan is also a mystery. This is a mystery of God who is so great and almighty would uphold human beings and give chance to them. This is something so amazing that we need to be prepared to understand. Human beings are creatures by God. Christians are Christ followers to serve. There are some people called by God to be prophets and serve as God’s servants, God’s co-workers in his saving act for and in the world.
In the human world that we are living in, God wants helpers and messengers to implement his divine plan of salvation. God wants our participation in his coming to redeem the world.God’s invitation and calling for messengers to bring the good news is out of love and trust to his people.
Dear sisters and brothers, are you prepared to be God’s messengers? If God ask you today, come to prepare yourself to serve the Lord and prepare the way for his coming, are you willing to do so?
Will you say to God like some people would that “oh no my Lord, I am not capable enough, I don’t have good conditions, and I am not ready”? In addition, some may say “I am too busy to give more to you. Please ask someone else to prepare the way for you. Sorry I am not available at the moment.”
Sisters and brothers, don’t worry about our ability. Moreover, try to be generous to God in his invitation. God is the source of everything, our life and all gifts including our health, wealth, time and so on are all from God. God values our faithfulness and our willingness to focus our life in him and serve him, more than anything else. Once we commit ourselves to God, God will give us strength and the power to do his work.
Some of my friends have said to me that I was brave to take up the Christian ministry in an international church like Kowloon Union Church. Serving in KUC was and is a great challenge. In the beginning of my ministry here, there were many areas that I was so unfamiliar with and required a lot of efforts to learn and to equip myself. To perform the roles and duties as the minister in charge for the congregation are not easy for me. In the first year of service after my ordination and installation to become minister of KUC, on and off I feel a kind of inadequacy and sense of failure. Whenever I have this kind of self doubt, God is good to comfort me by reminding me of his calling. I am called to serve, to serve as God’s servant and God’s messenger. I am called not because I have any exceptional ability or talent. The very reason is that I am willing to respond to God’s call, and follow his way. While we are waiting for God, please also remember God is waiting for our response at the same time. God has been patiently waiting for our response to become his messengers to participate in his salvation plan. The role of God’s messenger is to prepare the way of the Lord for making the whole human race (all human flesh) able to see God’s salvation.
Dear sisters and brothers, you may not be called to serve as full time minister. But every Christian, every follower of Christ is called by God to be his disciples and serve him in his salvation plan to the world. Everyone is called by God in a unique way according to God’s will and purpose, as well as our personality and gifts. Be prepared that God’s invitation and calling to you, by taking up the role of messengers. It can come at any time. Or perhaps, God may have talked to you but you were not prepared nor ready to listen and accept. Therefore please be alert and be prepared to listen to God’s tenderly voice.
Christmas is coming soon, it is a time of celebration. Christmas has become very commercialized nowadays. Christmas has become a golden period for business and consumptions. This is nothing wrong with consumption, entertainment and business, but we have to be aware of excessive and over-consumption. Moreover, for we who have faith in Jesus Christ, for we who are called to be God’s messengers to share with others the meaning of Jesus coming to the world. We have a significant role to play, that is to share the love and peace of Christmas.
During this season of Christmas, when we are preparing Christmas presents to family and friends, please also be prepared to serve the Lord as God’s messenger. Christmas is a celebration for the coming of Jesus Christ. We have to remind ourselves and people around us the essence of Christmas. The essence of Christmas is our Lord’s salvation to the world. Our Lord comes in flesh, in the form of human being to bring life, hope and peace.
If we want our message of God to have impact, we have to live in what we proclaim. Therefore, we have to be prepared for God’s calling to become his messenger. Moreover, we have to be prepared for a change in our life. The focus of our life transformation is to turn away from sins and return to God.
The message that John the Baptist proclaimed was to repent. In the Old Testament, God’s messenger from Malachi came to purify the priests so that they will bring to the Lord the right kind of offerings. Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the Lord will be pleasing to Him, as they used to be in the past. We as God’s people need to prepare for purifying ourselves, to repent and change our lives that would be a pleasing offering to God our Lord.
Being prepared includes our repentance, turn away from sins and return to God by focusing our life in God, with God and for God.
The sermon title for today --- Be prepared is an idea generated from my memory of being a girl guide when I was in secondary school.
Preparation is so important in all aspects of life. Preparation is something from God also. God prepared this world in his Creation, God prepared Jesus Christ the savoir to redeem the broken world. God prepared the Holy Spirit to sustain and nurtures his people. Jesus Christ prepared the church for his witness in the world.
In the motto of BE PREPARED from my training in the Girl Guide, I have learnt to be prepared at any moment to face difficulties and even dangers by knowing what to do and how to do it. This preparation includes our mind, body and will. Be prepared in mind means that by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
Be Prepared in body is by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.
Be prepared is therefore a commitment and a determination. Advent is a time that we have to act rightly with a strong will. Christ is coming. We need to be prepared without any delay!
May our God of salvation strengthen us during the path of waiting for the coming of the Lord to bring light and hope. Amen.
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