City Harvest Church celebrated Christmas with its first on-site service after 10 months of holding weekend services online.
Christmas services are always special in City Harvest Church. This year’s Christmas was made extra special because a total of 1,000 its members got to enjoy four Candlelight services on location at Suntec Convention Centre between Dec 25 and 27, given the new 250-person limit for religious services. It has been 10 months since the church gathered physically for services.
Live bands were not allowed during praise and worship—Singapore’s Phase 3 begins only Dec 28. The church, however, made special arrangements for the worship band to lead praise and worship at Hall 606, which was then streamed on to the screens in the main hall where services were held.
Even though no singing is allowed in the main hall, the people’s yearning for God could be felt in the atmosphere. When the saints of God gathered in one heart and one purpose—to worship the Lord—God’s presence was still so evidently present with His people.
Despite having to worship in a different manner, it still felt great to be able to gather physically with other believers to praise and worship Jesus.
THE VISION OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR
“More than ever before, Christmas is so very important to us because it is a reminder that during the darkest season of the year, God sent His light into the world to dispel all of its darkness,” said CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee, as he took to the stage to share his Christmas message. He continued that everyone can end the year with hope because the light of the world has come.
The story of Christmas is not just about physical darkness, but it is also about the personal darkness of the human soul. As people struggle through their disappointments, despair and disease, the Christmas season is a reminder that there is always hope in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Kong drew from Matthew 2: the story of the three wise men. The night that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, wise men from the east saw a bright shining star and started following it (Mt 2:1-2). The sighting of this star was also recorded in the historical records of ancient China, during the Han Dynasty.
The men were considered wise because they had caught a vision, and went after it. “The star speaks of the vision that God wants to bring into the people’s lives,” the pastor said, going on to share four lessons on the power of having a vision.
1: A VISION GIVES YOU A PURPOSE FOR LIVING
Pastor Kong illustrated using the “Hope Experiment”, where rats were placed in water to see how long they could swim and survive before they give up. When the jars were placed in complete darkness, the rats swam for about three minutes before giving up. However, when the jars were placed in the light where they could see their surroundings, the rats kept on swimming for three days. That was 1,700 times longer than the rats who were kept in darkness.
With hope in their lives, the rats found the energy to fight to live. “This is exactly what our Bible tells us: ‘Without a vision, the people perish’,” Pastor Kong said, quoting Prov 29:18. He went on to define vision as the ability to see or imagine how something could develop in the future. It flows from the heart and is born of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:17 is a reminder that when the Holy Spirit comes upon believers, young and old can have visions and dreams. God wants to give His people a vision to live life successfully and victoriously. While this does not mean that life will be a bed of roses, life will have a purpose.
A vision is created in the invisible realm of the Holy Spirit, it flows from the imagination of one’s heart.
“I want to encourage you in this Christmas to spend time in prayer and meditation,” said Pastor Kong. Meditating on God’s Word will allow the Holy Spirit to work in the believer, giving him a vision of what his future will be like.
2: A VISION PROVIDES A ROAD MAP TO GUIDE YOUR NEXT STEP
The vision of the star in Matthew 2:1-2 showed the wise men exactly what they had to do. They went 1,000 kilometers westward to Bethlehem of Israel. When one has a vision, he knows how to plan his next step.
“While I may not always be able to articulate the vision, I have a mental picture, and that helps me and the church to plan for our next step,” the pastor explained.
“A vision inspires action. It gives you a focus and you have to stay focused,” he added. The vision determines the direction one takes, and even the friends one chooses to make. All these develop habits that propel the believer to the vision he has.
3: A VISION WILL COME UNDER ATTACK
Every worthwhile vision, especially when it is from God, will come under attack. When the wise men followed the star, King Herod heard about their plan and plotted to kill Baby Jesus—in other words, to kill their vision and to end their dream.
“The Bible says that our vision and our faith will be tested, and God allows it so that your vision and faith can become clear to you,” said Pastor Kong. To know if something is from God, one has to test it. When one’s vision is tested, he needs to cling to the promises that God has given him and God will help him step into the next level of faith. Through these experiences, he will know that God can be counted on to keep His word.
Pastor Kong warned that there will also be “Dream Thieves” who come and steal one’s vision away. They could be one’s friends, family, one’s own fleshy nature, fear of failure, or even fatigue. “But let me tell you, no failure is final,” encouraged the pastor. “A champion is not somebody who never fails; a champion is simply somebody who never quits.”
He urged the church to keep focusing on the star and the vision of Jesus, because “in the midst of our mess, He will lead us into something beautiful”.
#4: A VISION WILL LEAD YOU TO JESUS
The vision of the star led the wise men to Jesus (Mt 2:9-11). “A good vision will always draw us closer to God,” said the pastor. It will inspire one to make good decisions and choices in their lives and eventually, cause one to live an even more consecrated and spiritual life.
Pastor Kong shared the story of Yvonne Tan who was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer in 2007. She received news from the doctor that she only had a five percent chance of survival and was advised to stop treatment; they said there was no more hope for her.
Despite the news she received, Yvonne continued to have faith in Jesus. She believed that God is Jehovah Rapha, her Healer, and prayed fervently for her healing. After six rounds of chemotherapy, an operation to remove a tumor, and 33 sessions of radiotherapy, her heart and lungs started to fail. By now she was completely worn out, and she had lost all the energy to keep fighting for her healing.
However, she kept focusing on the vision of health, and it led her closer to Jesus and the promises of His Word.
One day, the Holy Spirit led her to Nahum 1:9, “Affliction will not rise a second time.” Immediately, Jesus spoke to her and said, “Yvonne, you will be healed of this cancer and this cancer will never come back.”
At that very moment, her doctor came and told her about new chemotherapy drug that he wanted her to try.
That was 13 years ago. Today, Yvonne is still alive and well; four other patients who had similar conditions as her have all passed away from cancer. Today, Yvonne is a cell group leader who shares her testimony everywhere she goes, praying for the sick.
“The beautiful thing is that when you have a vision from God it will always lead you closer to Jesus,” said Pastor Kong.
On the contrary, if a vision makes one so busy and tired that they have no time to read the Bible or pray, it is a bad vision. It may have started out as a spirit-filled vision, but somewhere along the line, the vision became corrupted and lost its anointing.
The pastor encouraged the congregation not to be so busy with life, climbing the ladder of success only to realize at the end that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
“The vision born of the Spirit will always lead us closer to Jesus. When we serve Him and follow that vision, we will be filled with exceedingly great joy, just like the wise men,” Pastor Kong pointed out.
In closing, Pastor Kong encouraged the people to refresh and renew their visions by the blood of Jesus. Christmas Day is a reminder for everyone that they should never give up on themselves. God knows their value and their worth, and He is in control, even in this pandemic. God has a great plan and purpose for each and everyone, and all they have to do is to stay focused on the Christmas star that came as our beacon of hope.
As the message ended, a heart-warming time of Christmas carols began as the lights in the auditorium was darkened and candles were lit across the hall—a beautiful reminder that Jesus has come as the Light of the world.
THE BALLOTING PROCESS
With only 250 seats available for each of the four services the church will hold every weekend, CHC has instituted a balloting system for members to get their tickets.
Balloting opens at 12am on Saturday and closes at midnight on Sunday. On the following Tuesday, applicants will receive an SMS notifying them of the ballot results.
Members can ballot for their tickets via The CHC App or the CHC website. The process is pretty seamless and can be done within a minute or less. A member, Agatha Liang, 27, said that it was “nothing complicated and the process was easy and user-friendly”.
She went on to say that it was a good thing that it’s not first-come-first-serve, so everyone has a fair chance of getting tickets. While she did not manage to successfully ballot for the Christmas services, she plans to try again in the near future.
Another member, Alwyn who successfully balloted for the Christmas Day service, felt fortunate knowing that many members had balloted for this service and “everyone would have loved to attend this service”.
With the e-ticket on his mobile phone, the churchgoer enters Suntec Convention Center at either one of the two entry points: the escalators located at the main lobby at Level 1 or the Convention Centre lift lobby A. Do note that the lifts are reserved for members who have difficulty using the escalators.
The main hall is divided into five sections and churchgoers must sit in the section and seat allocated to them. Each section’s entry point has its own pathway leading to the seats to prevent any intermingling.
Churchgoers are reminded of the social distancing measures that must be observed, and that there should not be any intermingling with those who are not seated in their row.