Christmas is a season for loved ones to gather, but there’s much more to this year-end time. Pastor Kong Hee unravelled the true meaning of Christmastime in his sermon last weekend.
Christmas is in the air at City Harvest Church this month. The weekend of Dec 16 and 17 was an event-filled one with a full-scale Christmas Carnival at the Level 3 atrium at Suntec, which featured game stalls, food stalls, photo booths, ball pits and more. It was a carnival for all ages.
Service that weekend was full of Christmas atmosphere. The congregation at the main service was treated to a moving performance by Singaporean musical theatre actress and fellow church member, Nathania Ong. She is best known for her role as Eponine in the musical Les Misérables in the musical’s UK & Ireland tour, a role she reprised on West End in London. At church, Nathania delivered a flawless rendition of “When You Believe” from Dreamwork’s The Prince Of Egypt.
Kong Hee, the senior pastor of CHC, next took the stage to share a message about the shepherds’ angelic encounter on the very first Christmas.
He began with the observation that Christmas holds different significance for everyone. For scientists, it is the darkest and longest night of the year; for tourists, it is a beautiful time to soak in the festive atmosphere and beautiful decorations; for the retail industry, it is viewed as the most profitable time of the year.
What significance should Christmas hold for Christians? Pastor Kong went on to share from Luke 2:10-14, extracting four key points that reveal the meaning of Christmas.
1. Christmas Is The Time To Release Your Fears
The very first thing the angel said to the shepherds was, “Do not be afraid,” noted Pastor Kong. There are many reasons for people to worry—from financial stress to family grievances; from fear of the future to present health concerns. To be well-rested is a luxury that is hard to come by for many in society, resulting in poor mental health and constant stress.
“But God is love and His kingdom is the kingdom of love,” Pastor Kong reminded the church. “The Bible says perfect love casts out all fear.” He went on to urge the congregation not to be tormented by fears and worries any longer.
The pastor showed the congregation that the very first few verses of the Bible are a depiction of chaos and darkness. However, the Holy Spirit brought light, breathed life into creation, and poured out His love on humans, so that they might have a relationship with God. These same three things were given to the world during that first Christmas: the Holy Spirit brought light to the darkest period of the year, and gave life to the womb of Mary which brought forth Jesus— through whom the world could experience the Father’s love.
To illustrate his point, Pastor Kong shared the story of a father and his young son driving through the countryside. A bumble bee flew into their car, and the boy cried out—being allergic to bee stings, he was very afraid. Without hesitation, his father grabbed the bee, and squeezed it before releasing it. The bee continued to buzz around the car and the son grew frantic again. “Dad, what are you doing? I’m scared,” the son cried. The father opened up his palm, revealing the stinger of the bee stuck to his skin. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I have taken the sting for you.” In that same way, Man need not grapple with fear anymore as Jesus has taken away the sting of death.
2. Christmas Is The Time To Renew Your Faith
In verse 10, the angel continued to say that he had come to bring “good tidings of great joy”. Christmas is about the good news of Jesus, that He is the Saviour, Healer, Provider, and Sanctifier of all mankind.
Pastor Kong recalled a miraculous testimony of an athletic 19-year-old national serviceman who abruptly lost control of his body, requiring the help of passersby to make it back home. Thereafter, he faced breathing difficulties and was bedridden. His vision deteriorated rapidly and he could not eat or drink without vomiting. After being rushed to the hospital, his MRI showed the presence of white spots at the back of his brain, which were nodules that were damaging his central nervous system. The doctors tried various treatments to no avail. Out of options, this man was sent home to die.
In this crisis, he asked his friends to bring him to church. They carried him to a CHC service, which was then held at the former Hollywood Theatre along Tanjong Katong Road. Pastor Kong vividly remembered praying over this man’s condition, and God quickly began His work. Within the next five days, all his symptoms disappeared. His next MRI showed no trace of any white spots in his brain. “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something,” Pastor Kong said, encouraging the church. “That is why he gives us Christmas, a time to renew your faith.”
God knows every individual personally—the good, the bad, and ugly parts—and yet He still loves each person, deeply and affectionately. “The good news is that God has a wonderful plan for your life,” the pastor declared to the congregation. “Christmas is God saying to you: I want to have a relationship with you. I want you to know Me as much as I already know you.”
3. Christmas Is The Time To Receive Your Forgiveness
The angel said to the shepherds, “Born to you this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” God sent Jesus to meet humanity’s greatest need. God sent a Saviour because the greatest need of mankind is the forgiveness of sin. God is love but He is also supremely holy. There is not one man who has not lied, lost his temper or hurt others with his words and actions. “How are we going to measure up to God’s standards, when we can’t even measure up to our own standards? So God said: Let Me be your Saviour,” Pastor Kong explained.
Back in school, Pastor Kong trained as a lifeguard. One thing he learnt was that it is quite impossible to save a drowning person who is trying to save himself. If the one being rescued is struggling, he may end up sabotaging the rescue. “Jesus Christ is that lifeguard of your soul,” the pastor analogised. “He cannot save you until you stop trying to save yourself.”
This Christmas, it is time to cast one’s sins before God because He wants to scrub it all clean. “Sins that are deep in your innermost being, deep in the secret areas of your life that nobody knows. And when He forgives, He also forgets,” Pastor Kong said, quoting Heb 8:12.
4. Christmas Is The Time To Rebuild Relationships
In verse 14, the angels exhorted, “[A]nd on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” God wants people to not only have peace with Him, but also with one another. Pastor Kong especially highlighted peace within homes, as 90 percent of all resentment happens in the home.
Pastor Kong then shared the story of a congregation member who grew up in a dysfunctional family. In her teenage years, she started dating a man but things turned bad when he raped her violently. This spiralled into unrelenting abuse in all areas—physical, sexual and emotional. She tried to leave the relationship but her boyfriend threatened to kill her and her family. Twice, she got pregnant and underwent abortions. This caused her to spiral into depression and she developed suicidal tendencies.
She found herself pregnant a third time. At three months, she was forced to move into this man’s cupboard for six months. She had to control her bladder and bowels so that her boyfriend’s family would not discover her. After giving birth to the baby, she put the child up for adoption.
Cut off from her family and friends, this traumatic experience broke the woman. At her lowest point, she attended a CHC service and she gave her heart to Jesus. The love of God washed away her shame and she received peace within her soul. God said to her, “You are the apple of My eye. I love you with an everlasting love.” She broke up with the man and was able to forgive him for all that he had done. Her heart slowly opened up and she was able to trust people again. Since then, her relationships have been restored. Today, she is reconciled with her family and is happily married to a man she met while attending the School of Theology. Today, both husband and wife are actively serving in the church.
“Christmas is a time for healing and reconciliation,” Pastor Kong emphasised. He encouraged those in the congregation who may be estranged from their families, or bear grudges against certain individuals to let the love of God into their hearts.
“God is here to meet you. Don’t let this Christmas be wasted,” he urged, his words a timely nudge to the congregation to cherish and reflect upon the significance of this season of light, life and love.