25 December, Saturday — You are the crown and splendour of the Lord

Dear Oxygen readers,

The Core Team wishes one and all a blessed, peaceful and joyous Christmas filled with God’s graces and love. May He continue to light out paths and guide us on our journeys as we come to know Him more.

Christmas Day — Vigil Mass

Isa 62:1-5
Acts 13:16-17,22-25
Mt 1:1-25

…no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’...

The readings in Isaiah Chapters 60 – 62 elicit optimism, joy and rejoicing; an anticipation of great promise and wonderful things to come for the people. However, it took several decades to get to this place of exuberance. For the Israelites had come from a long period of exile in Babylon (423 BCE – 372 BCE). They felt forgotten, abandoned and lost all hope in God. God was silent to them.

Having suffered in exile for close to fifty years, it is no wonder they felt that way when He could have spoken a word of redemption to free them. Soon, they were disenchanted, they disobeyed and rebelled against God. Perhaps some of the Israelites who were less expressive or extroverted, pensively reflected on what God’s silence meant? Why did God allow them to be held bondage in Babylonia?

Have you ever wondered in your time of ‘exile’, what it all meant? Perhaps your experience isn’t as testing as what the Israelites faced, but nonetheless a time that your faith was questioned. During this time of silence from God, what was running through your mind?

For several years, I contemplated the reason for being. I experienced a ‘crisis of self’. Psychologists refer to this stage as stagnation vs generativity. Have I achieved what I set out to do? Am I fruitful? What exactly is my purpose and mission in life? What’s my legacy? As I reflected on my life thus far, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had actually accomplished anything. After being called to 9 years of active ministry, I fell flat, burnt out and disillusioned. I questioned God, “You mean that’s it?” I left ministry and my community and awaited His message. What was I to do? What did those years in ministry mean? Where was He leading me to? I felt like I was now left out in the cold. Yes, I felt abandoned. And He was silent.

Then suddenly God planted a desire in my heart. A desire I can’t explain and I followed that prompting. I sense that it’s the beginning of the journey of the second half of my life. In January this year, I became a student again, after decades of leaving school. Many people were puzzled over my decision. I had a myriad of reactions from “Why are you doing this?”, “Are you regretting this decision yet?”, to my 82-year-old aunt commenting incredulously in Teochew and I paraphrase, “Studying only when you get to such an old age!” None of these reactions were encouraging (that I can understand). Many feel that I am absolutely nuts for contemplating this path.

However, my friends of faith were very encouraging. They didn’t question my decision. To be perfectly honest, I don’t have any practical reasons as to why I am following this path. Unlike my course mates, I am not looking to get a promotion, further my job prospects or find an alternative career. I feel that in this season, God is speaking to my heart, telling me that in the afternoon of my life, my ‘usefulness’ isn’t done. There’s still more work to do. What work this is, I really don’t know, but my studies prepare me for this work. I’ll admit, several times I question why I am doing this. It’s quite a commitment and sacrifice on my part (I almost have no social life). However, like the Israelites who didn’t understand then, I trust that God has a plan. I don’t understand it, but He does. It may be difficult, stressful, inconvenient, rough, and may make no sense to me; but God has His eyes on me.

You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God.  No. I am not forsaken, nor abandoned. I just have to patiently await the unveiling of His mighty plan.

My friends, whatever you may be experiencing now that is uneasy, hard, senseless or even if its plain emptiness you feel, do not turn away from the Lord. He has not turned away from you. He’s got you! Await His revelation; in anticipation of great promise and wonderful things to come.

Tonight, as we await the birth of our Lord, as we anticipate His coming, let us remember that the Lord takes delight in us. Your God rejoices in you!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, teach us to remain faithful to You. Help us not abandon You when things don’t go according to our plans. Forgive us for seeking comfort and answers in other gods. Teach us to be steadfast in faith and love for You, as you are faithful and loving towards us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your assuring presence in our lives. For reminding us that indeed we are not forsaken nor abandoned. For seeing us as your precious children, the crown, the splendour of the Lord.

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