What a year it has been! During these last days of the year 2020, if I were to ask you “Where are you in your joy index?” What would you say? And… what is "joy" to you?
As Christians we can enjoy the absence of fear and doubt — a joy that is always available because we trust in God’s love and faithfulness and the joyfulness being our natural state when we are relating well with our Maker!
John 10:10 says the enemy comes only to “kill”, “steal” and “destroy”, he is here to kill-joy, steal-joy and destroy-joy!
The enemy is here to cause doubt and fear, distance and disconnection so that he can rob us of the joy that is already given to us as God’s children.
It is helpful for me to remember that this God-given gift of “joy” already resides within me! I can access this joyful state of being when I intentionally choose to abide in The Lord.
Jesus says in John 16,
“In this world you will have trouble”. But you can take heart. You can still receive joy. You are not dependent on anyone or anything other than God and yourself to know, live in and live out joy.
The choices we make in life... The thoughts we choose to dwell on or cast away in the name of Jesus contribute to the joy we will experience in life.
As I reflect on most of the bible stories, almost all the men and women of God were in tricky, sticky, messy, troublesome situations (Abraham, Joseph, David, Esther, Hannah just to name a few), they chose God and encountered deep joy despite their situations!
We too can develop that inner joy; by nourishing our relationship with Christ, daily.
We celebrated Christmas just a few days ago! Jesus is “a joy to the world” that’s what He is famous for! Bringing true joy to us as He lives deep within us.
As 2020 comes to a close, let us continue to remind each other that true joy comes from knowing Jesus as our Saviour and ultimate leader. When the rubber meets the road, choose God; He always comes through, in His perfect timing. Amen.
It all matters.
In these past seasons of disarray in Hong Kong, we’ve needed the reminder that we matter to God. And not just the big stuff, although that’s important. God not only cares infinitely about our salvation but also about all the parts of our humanity. Our frailty, the teeter-totter of our hopes and fears, our need for loving comfort and affirmation. That’s why I love this famous quote from Philip Yancey in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew:
“Never again need we wonder whether what happens on this dirty little tennis ball of planet matters to the rest of the universe. Little wonder a choir of angels broke out in spontaneous song, disturbing not only a few shepherds but the entire universe…”
The Christmas story of God becoming man is proof of God’s love for His people. Jesus thrust himself from the rightful glory of heaven into decades of obscurity. The world and people He created did not recognize nor honour Him, and this was a long rescue plan that would develop slowly.
When I think how the days have sometime felt very long this past year, my curiosity also leads me to wonder how they felt to Jesus during His time on earth. Thirty plus years of patiently enduring His self-created confines to redeem a people who often didn’t know it nor want it. They must have felt long, it must have been lonely. And looking at it from that perspective, it appears to me that the greater the patience of Jesus, the greater the love that must have fuelled that patience.
What a love He had to leave the throne and take up residence in the form of a baby in the middle of nowhere, allowing the redemption plan to unfold slowly in its rightful time.
For God so loved the world, that He sent His one and only Son…
Our plans for this time of the year have certainly been disrupted, but that should not prevent us from celebrating Christmas together with our families and friends. Here are five ideas to help you celebrate this Christmas season in a Covid-responsible way:
1. Wear matching pajamas!
A staple of the Christmas season are holiday cards of matching pyjamas. Send every family member a set of matching pyjamas, have them take selfies, and splice them all into one photo!
2. Karaoke Carols
What is Christmas without singing Christmas carols? No matter what communication platform you use (Zoom, Skype, Google Chat), there should be a function to share your screen. Just pull up the lyrics of your favourite Christmas carol, share your screen, and have everybody sing along! Be ready for some awful harmonies.
3. Virtual Secret Santa/White Elephant
My favourite part of every Christmas party is the gift exchange. Believe it or not, there are online platforms that make it possible for you to host such an event. https://www.whiteelephantonline.com/ and https://www.elfster.com/ are two platforms that do just that.
4. Stream “The Nutcracker” and Other Holiday Performances
I grew up watching the Nutcracker on Christmas Day or perhaps you’ve made a tradition out of listening to Handel’s “Messiah.” The good news is that many theatre companies and orchestras are adjusting to the times and putting these performances online. Now you don’t have to beat the rush of the crowds, and you can enjoy these performances on YouTube from the comfort of your home.
5. Celebrate Christmas from around the world
Let’s be real, most of us are travelling on Christmas, and while you may not be able to travel right now, you can celebrate as if you were. Learn about different folk tales from various countries, like Sinterklass and the 13 Yule Lads. Cook or bake traditional foods, or celebrate the Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
6. Candlelight Service
Island ECC is hosting a candlelight service on Christmas Eve at 7pm. Remember to get your own candles for the candle lighting moment. Host a viewing party or watch it with friends on Zoom, you won’t want to miss it!
In chapter 12 of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he outlines how the Christian life should be lived. Filled with great wisdom and practical guidelines, this chapter is the go-to for believers on how to live out our faith.
Mixed in with this chapter is one simple sentence that gives us guidance on how to endure the times we’re in:
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." - Romans 12:12
What a great proverb for this hectic year!
The Christmas season is a time when our world begins to look back and take stock of the year we just encountered. Usually, different websites and news agencies will begin to create “year-in-review” lists and articles, and most of the time, we are amazed at how many things happened during the year. But this year is definitely one for the record books. Covid-19 has been the top story all year and all other events seem to fall to a distant second.
And now, we find ourselves back at square one…again. Hong Kong has handled the pandemic exceptionally well, but just when we think we’re in the clear, another wave hits. But even though we’re back in the thick of more restrictions, Paul’s one little verse from Romans 12 gives us some encouragement on how we can finish this year strong.
* Rejoice in hope – We are hopeful for a new year, but we don’t know exactly what to expect. But what we do know is that God is with us. He brought us through this tumultuous year and He will bring us through everything else. We have hope because Jesus came to this earth and was victorious over death. Christmas reminds us of this hope that we have.
* …be patient in tribulation – We have seen some hard times this year. And while we are facing another stressful situation, we need to be reminded to be patient. This will be a challenging December and 2021 could possibly be more of the same. So being patient in the tribulation will help us to know that God is in control.
* …be constant in prayer – Ultimately, staying constant in prayer will focus our minds on the fact that it’s by God’s power that we are able to be patient in this tribulation. And, it’s because of God’s power that we rejoice in hope!