Rev. Choi’s Reflection for this week

3rd January 2021

Reading: Matthew 2. 1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Reflection

This Sunday we are to celebrate Epiphany, although the actual Epiphany is the 6th of January. Interestingly it is marked by the visit of the Magi. You may wonder why we celebrate it on their visit, as his manifestation already happened on the Christmas day. However, one of the things we need to remember in this story is that they followed the star, the light, even in the darkness of the world. At the time when Jesus was born, the society wasn’t quite settled politically, and the ordinary people had to live in uncertainty. They might have asked a question, ‘Where is God in this darkness?’ In this sense, having lived through 2020, the year of the unprecedented pandemic, and still living under the fear of virus, we may have the same question. ‘How do we find God’s light, in the darkness, where hundreds of people are dying every day because of the virus?’

Then, the story of the Magi is all about persistent light. It is a story that looks for the light. Even though they were not quite sure about where the light would lead, the Magi followed the star until they found the child, the light of the world. In this respect, it is worth looking into this story more carefully, although not many things are mentioned about them in the gospel. However, there are two things we can be sure about them.

Firstly, they came from the east, following a star. What does it mean that they came from the east? It means they were the Gentiles. In other words, they were not Jews, they were foreigners. And, that is the important point. To Matthew particularly, it was a significant event that God the Son revealed himself to the Gentiles. It was significant, because it was to mean that Jesus came to the world not only for the Jews, but for everyone in the world, whether they were Jews or Gentiles.

And, the other thing we can be sure of is that they brought the precious gifts to the family: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What’s striking is that not only they made a long journey from afar, but they also offered those gifts to worship the Christ. I think this is something we need to take seriously. What I mean is that they knew how to worship, they knew how to offer. They made all their efforts to find Jesus, the truth, and offered their treasures, not just some from the leftovers. That is what the worship is all about. It needs sacrifice, both in time and in treasure.

And also, we see their obedience and faithfulness from their attitudes.

For example, can you imagine how they would feel when they came into the house where the star stopped, and found a baby in an ordinary family? They might have been disappointed, as the family didn’t look like a worldly royal family. Nevertheless, trusting in God and his message, they humbled themselves and offered their gifts and worshipped him obediently. And, they returned home, not following the Herod’s order, the worldly power, but following the God’s direction, the spiritual guidance.

What we need to remember in this story of Epiphany is that the star shone in the darkness of the night. The Magi looked for it, and they scanned the dark skies and found it. Yes, it was in the darkness that they found the light.

The star is there, leading and directing. And, the Magi are required to keep following and trusting.

Having passed the darkness of 2020, and facing the uncertainty of 2021, I am sure, we believe that God’s light still shines and leads us. Amen.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Light of the world, shine in our hearts, banishing all that obscures your goodness and darkens our lives.

Illumine our minds, light up our spirits, and flood our lives with the radiance of your love, so that it may shine not just in us, but also through us – bringing glory to you. Amen.

20th December 2020

Reading: Luke 1. 26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Reflection

This Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Advent, focuses on Mary, the mother of Jesus, who had to accept God’s unthinkable request, taking a risk without knowing what would be happening to her and all her life. It is actually a remarkable decision, which is hardly compared to other cases in the Bible. And, we see how people make excuses to God’s calling. For example, Moses, when he was called, we see him saying ‘Lord, I am an old man and not good at speech. Send my brother, Aaron’.

What about Jeremiah? When he was called, he said, “I am only a child. And, I don’t know how to speak.” What did Gideon say, when he was called? He said, ‘My family is the weakest in the whole tribe, and I am the least in the family’. But, Mary was different in responding to God’s call. She didn’t make any excuse, although she might have not understood what it meant.

On the other hand, we need to notice that it was God’s decision to enter into our world as a human like us, and He put this decision into the hands of a young woman who could freely choose to say yes or no to this strange, unthinkable request. That was a wonder and mystery. But, we need to be aware that all of us are given the same free will. Like Mary, we are to be presented with choices, opportunities, obstacles in this life. We can trust and move forward, or refuse and freeze with fear. It’s up to us. But, sometimes we make a mistake of thinking that ‘saying yes to God’ means not having any doubt, not asking any questions. That is not the case. We wouldn’t be human if we could manage that. And, I do not think God expects unquestioning agreement from us. And, we see even Mary say ‘How can this be?’ She might have doubted it, but she was not told off or rebuked. Rather, we see her comforted by the angel, saying ‘Do not be afraid’. Although God expects us to have faith, it’s not a faith like driving blind, but letting God to take the wheel. And, that is what we need to learn from Mary, who says ‘yes’ to God’s will even if it doesn’t make sense in a logical way. Logic may not work in terms of faith in God, and it may not be logical at all to choose Mary to be the mother of God’s Son. But, God’s kingdom is completely different from the world we live, and the Gospel is all about the upside down stories, which may not be understood with logic.

And, Mary must be the clear image of turning the world upside down. So, she was to proclaim this secret in her song ‘Magnificat’, saying ‘Christ is coming to fulfil the promise of all good things for the hungry and poor, and to give the hope for the oppressed, with mercy and love, with no judgment, nor condemnation’. That is the good news, and that is why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, who came as a vulnerable baby, but saved us, and gives us hope. Alleluia! Amen.

Prayer

Remembering Mary, we pray that in humility of spirit and willingness of heart, we may, like her, entrust ourselves to your purposes, and be bearers of Christmas joy amid all the confusions, dramas and messiness of our lives.
May our minds race, our hearts sing, but may we find also a stillness that is your presence, leading us on to Bethlehem, where our spirits can be fully refreshed with the light of eternal love, revealed in the baby Jesus. Amen.

29 November 2020 (Advent 1)

Reading: Mark 13. 32-37

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[c]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”


Reflection

This Sunday we begin a new season of Advent, leading us to celebrate Christmas. But this year we are facing a quite different situation which no one would have thought of just nine month ago, wearing masks, staying away from our loved ones, and watching in horror huge death toll every day. In this unprecedented time of pandemic, what does Advent mean to us? And, how do we, or should we celebrate the amazingly good news of the incarnation, the birth of Jesus, God’s Son? It’s a huge question, I have to say. But, what’s clear is that we cannot celebrate Advent and Christmas in some kind of false comfort, disconnected from the world’s suffering, because God is willing to engage with his people in the world. What should we do, then? My answer would be that’s why we need Advent.

Advent is a time to be still, a time of quiet, and a time to discover God’s presence amongst us. And, it is a time to wait for the coming of the Christ child. But, we may need to know that there is something significant behind our waiting, that is, ‘unexpectedness’. Jesus says, ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’. It is an interesting point, perhaps the only place, where Jesus acknowledges the difference between the Father and himself. In most of the time, we see Jesus saying, “I know my Father. I know what His will is, because I am from Him.” But, as for the matter of the time and the date of his coming, his coming again actually, he admits that it is the area even he cannot approach, the area only the Father knows. Therefore, it is to show us its significance, and the wonder and surprise it will bring, in the end. But, to us, often it becomes a stumbling block in our waiting. That ‘unexpectedness’ seems to cause troubles, because we easily get bored, and forget why we are waiting and what we are waiting for. In this sense, it seems that what we need in waiting is faith. As we live and wait endlessly, without guessing or speculating about the future, we are to be asked only to count on His faithfulness, and the promise He gives.

However, it doesn’t mean that in our waiting, God just wants us to sit back and do nothing. In this time of waiting, God wants us to listen to him, and live out what He speaks to us. He doesn’t want us to live in complacency, but wants us to get ready for the days to come.

Advent is a time of transformation. It is a time to think of how we can transform ourselves for the time to come, and how our traditions and customs should be transformed for that day.

And, I believe, in this time of Advent, in our waiting and watching, he wants us to keep running for our transformation, and be ready for the world transformed. Amen.

Prayer

Loving God, who comes in Jesus, we bring to you all who wait for you,

in hope and faith, or in fear and despair.

We pray for all who wait for peace, for justice, for their voices to be heard.

We pray for all who live in fear, of war, violence, abuse or bullying.

We pray that our Churches may wait on your guidance, so we may serve you faithfully.

May we watch and wait with them, be people of peace and justice, and bring hope, comfort and healing, light in the darkness. Amen.

Read Choi’s reflections for earlier weeks here