Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lonely This Christmas?

Christmas season is a happy occasion for many. The reasons are obvious and all around us: glittering decors, yuletide songs, year-end bonus, parties left and right, gifts galore, family vacation. But these same reasons that could make one person happy could be the opposite reasons that could make another lonely.

Photo from Shutterstock

        Because for someone whose property has been foreclosed, he will have no house to decorate. The part-timer, freelancer, and unemployed will not be qualified for the 13th month pay. Someone will not be part of the party tonight because his name was excluded in the guest list. A guy will be disappointed for not receiving the gift he expected. And at least one family will be incomplete because a member is away or has departed permanently.

        Some of us might think we have been forgotten, deserted, neglected, or excluded. But the circumstances of the birth of Jesus reminds us that Jesus Christ came for all, He embraced all. How significant that it was to the shepherds that the angels proclaimed the birth of the Savior. Shepherds on those days were perceived by many as having low or little value. Most of the time they are away from the city and thus, from the people because they are on the field tending sheep. The birth of the Messiah is reason for great joy to the shepherds and to the rest of us. Jesus came for the outcasts, unwanted, separated, neglected, and excluded. He came to bring them all to God the Father to be part of His family. Being part of God's family means you are loved and cherished, provided and protected, thought of and remembered. This truth gives us reason to rejoice and celebrate Christmas.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:8-11).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Books, a Toy, and a Savior

I watched as the customer assistant folded the flaps of the carton box and sealed the edges with a tape. Then she wrapped the package in plastic and inserted on a side pocket the waybill identifying the consignee and destination of the goods. My books were on their way to a remote elementary school up north.

                I had mixed feelings when I realized that I was parting with my books. It gave me satisfaction that I was able to share my books to school children and teachers who are very much in need of materials for their library, yet the separation anxiety was real. These books have been with me for years and have helped me in many ways—grammar books, a book of fables and parables, juvenile novels, a well-read Bible, and reference books.

                As my palm patted the surface of the box, a scene came to my mind. I remembered the college-bound Andy in the movie Toy Story 3 when he hesitated to give away his all-time favorite toy Woody the Cowboy to a little girl. He spent many happy days playing with Woody that’s why parting with the miniature wooden cowboy was difficult. But in the end, Andy yielded and handed his old beloved toy to its new eager owner.

Image of Woody from

                There is Someone who gave away something far more valuable than books or toys. God the Father gave His only beloved Son, Jesus, so all of us may not perish but live. This is the essence of Christmas. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Whoever puts his trust in God’s Son will not be lost but will have life that lasts forever” (John 3:16). God did not hesitate to send His only beloved Son to this troubled world to rescue us. He who has been with Him from eternity reigning in glory, was born like one of us in humble circumstances to redeem us.

The angels told the shepherds the night baby Jesus was born, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). How did Jesus become our Savior? The baby Jesus would later grow up and by the age of 33, die on the cross to pay for our sins and set us free from its power.

 This Christmas season, I hope you receive the greatest gift one can ever have, far greater than books or toys. He is Jesus Christ, the Lord, our Savior!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Heart Test

I accompanied my father to the examination room for his 2D echo test three days ago. It was my first time to see a sonogram of the heart. I could hardly remember all the parts of our central organ, but as I saw the images of my father’s heart and heard its beat as it pumps rhythmically, I was struck with awe.

A provoking line from Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love came to my mind. The majority of us take for granted our kidneys, liver, lungs, and other internal organs that we’re dependent upon to continue living. We know our kidneys are inside our bodies, our heart is in our chest. But it’s not until we experience a sharp pain in the back or difficulty in breathing that we become concerned. Chan was right. On the average day, we forget that our life is truly a vapor. We could die any moment.

In the same vein, we don’t consider God very much most of the time. We’re either struggling to survive, or just the opposite, succeeding steadily that we leave God in the sidelines. Some might object. I pray to Him first thing in the morning. I attend church on Sundays. When I have time, I volunteer. I give a portion of my income to support the work of the church. But is that enough? Or should we rather ask:  Is that the only way we are to view our devotion to God?

Jesus commanded His followers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The other day, I stumbled upon an article by Jason DeRouchie titled "Love God with Your Everything" where he expounded on the said verse. I think he captured what it means to love God with all our hearts and soul when he said, “We are to love God with our passions, hungers, perceptions, and thoughts. But we are also to love him with how we talk, and what we do with our hands, and how we utilize our talents, and how we react to challenges — our entire being is to display that we love God.”

From time to time it’s good to submit our hearts for a spiritual test. Let’s allow God to search our hearts and show us what really makes our hearts beat, what makes them sick, why they wander far from Him.  Let us allow God, the One who made our hearts and keeps them beating, to impress upon us what pleases Him. From time to time, let’s check if our hearts are still in sync with Him.