Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope — Three Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 1 of 3)

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Psalm 65 came to me on Sunday, December 30, 2012 — two days before New Year, and I’ve been ruminating on its personal assurance to me as I begin 2013.

A psalm of David, it is bursting with hope and confidence for the future. I can see 3 reasons why:

 First Reason:  Because of Who God Is

Consider the God of Israel whom David praises in his poetry:

He is a listening God who hears the prayers of his people (verse 2).

He is a forgiving God (verse 3).

He is a giving God (verses 4 and 9).

He is a saving God – “O God our Saviour” (verse 5).

He is the Hope of the earth (verse 5).

He is powerful and strong (verse 6).

He is Creator of the world (verses 6 and 7).

He is Ruler of all nature and Ruler of all nations (verse 7).

He is a caring God (verse 9).

He is God of abundance and overflow (verses 11-13).

He is God of joy and gladness (verses 12 and 13).

Psalm 65 speaks to me of a good and beautiful God. How wonderful it is that this God who had made himself known to David thousands and thousands of years ago is the same God I trust and worship today! He is the God of History – unchanging and unfailing; all-true and all-loving.

My hope for 2013 rests not on a stable government nor a robust economy; not on material wealth nor prospects of prosperity; not on powerful leaders nor benevolent do-gooders. My hope rests in God alone because truly he is “God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (verse 5).  This is why I look forward to this new year with quiet hope and great expectation.

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No Room

I’ve been reflecting on the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas week to keep myself focused on the real Celebrant amid the busyness and noisiness surrounding the season. Yesterday I did a Lectio Divina (divine reflection) on the apostle Luke’s account on Jesus’ birth in chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke. Reading the chapter slowly, I listened to the words speak  to me quietly. I began with verses 1 to 7. As I read the passage again and again, the phrase that kept stirring my heart is “no room”.

Jesus was born in a manger because there was “no room for them in the inn” (verse 7). There was no room for the One “through whom all things were made” (John 1:3). God the Son, the co-Creator of heaven and earth came to the world, but the world did not recognize him and had no room for him.

From the day he was born and throughout his life until his final breath, Jesus experienced the reality of having “no room” — in his hometown, among his own people, in the world. How unfortunate that the world had no room for the One it needed the most — the Savior who came to save us from our helpless sinful state!

I can’t help but wonder how Jesus feels about how Christmas was celebrated all over the world. Amidst the overeating, overdrinking, overspending, over-partying by most of us, I had to stop and ask myself: Was there room for Christ in the households that feasted on lavish food and exchanged expensive gifts? Was there room for him in the extravagant Christmas parties and family reunions? Was there room for him in the Christmas concerts and carollings? Was there room for him in our spirited conversations and hearty laughter? Was there ever room for him in this most-awaited occasion of the year we call CHRISTmas?

I’m grateful that by the grace of God, I had the opportunity to open the door of my heart to Jesus on that Christmas of 1975, when I received him as my Saviour and Lord. My heart became his room, my body his temple. My life now belongs to him — to transform, rule, and use for his purpose. Still, I have to admit that there were days in 2012 spent for myself alone — when there was no room for Jesus in my schedule or in the choices I made. Yet He remained faithful, and loving, and true. He has kept his promise to never leave me nor forsake me.

This Christmas season and in the coming year, may we give Jesus his rightful place in our lives. May it not be said of us that “there was no room” for Jesus in our hearts.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (the words of Jesus in the book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20).

The Gift of Jesus

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Let me share with you why Christmas means so much to me. It was on one Christmas Eve, more than 30 years ago when I received the gift that the first Christmas was all about. On December 24, 1975 I accepted Jesus in my heart through a childlike prayer of faith, and He became Saviour of my soul and Lord of my life.

On that wonderful evening, my eldest sister (a college freshman at that time), had a rare one-on-one talk with me in the bedroom that we shared as siblings.  She was holding a little yellow booklet in her hand. With enthusiasm and unusual kindness uncharacteristic of my “Big” sister, she walked me through the booklet, page after page, and gently explained to me selected Bible verses that spoke of how Jesus loves me and wants to have a personal relationship with me.

I wasn’t sure I understood every detail of that talk.  But one thing clear in my mind was that, if there was a throne in my heart, Jesus wasn’t the one sitting there! I was a teen-ager full of myself and took pride in my academic medals and many friends. I felt favoured by my parents because aside from getting high grades in school, I played piano pretty well and would render music (even though grudgingly at times) when they had guests at home, and this made them proud. I was confident about my own “goodness”.

As a devout Roman Catholic, I thought I knew enough about Jesus – in fact I was president of the club called Friends of Jesus. I had received numerous “Best in Religion” medals and went through the motions required by the traditions in the Catholic school where I studied.  But, that religion had never been personal to me; it didn’t create a heart’s desire to know Christ in an intimate way.

Sad to say, I didn’t know the Jesus of the Bible. I had never thought of Christ as a real person who came to the world as a baby on the first Christmas, and grew up and lived among needy people.  I had not understood His teachings and the meaning of His miracles. I had not grasped the incredible truth that He loved all of humankind –and yes, He loved me —   so much that He gave up His heavenly glory and embrace the suffering and death destined for Him on the Cross of Calvary.  I had never been confronted about my personal pride and self-centeredness. I had never seen myself as a sinner in need of a Saviour . . . until that one Christmas Eve!

On that night, I listened to words from the Bible that opened my eyes and led my heart to Jesus. I learned that it was possible to have a living, day-to-day relationship with Him. By God’s grace, my heart understood the awesome truth that He loves me and wants me to experience life in an extraordinary way on this side of heaven — and in eternity with Him forever. I began the exciting discovery of the real meaning of Christmas, sans the worldly trappings and travesties . . . that it’s all about Jesus, the Son of God who came to be with us – our Immanuel (John 1:14).

I began my personal relationship with Jesus my Saviour and Lord on that extraordinary eve of Christmas 1975. Jesus offered me His unconditional love and I accepted with gratitude and awe. He kindled in my heart a flame that has kept burning, fanned by His promises in the Bible and encouragement from a faithful community of believers. He ushered me into a new life of adventure in faith, grace, hope, love, joy, and great expectation! These words are no longer abstractions for me. They have become real in my daily walk with the One who gave me the gift of Himself on that beautiful Christmas.

This Christmas, like the Christmas of 1975 and the meaningful Christmases in subsequent years, I sing again my favourite Christmas carol and proclaim, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”  Joy to my heart, my Jesus reigns!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6