Preaching a Christmas sermon

This meditation was written during the Christmas of 2016. I read it again this morning as I was tidying up my website. It has a freshness and relevance to it. I decided to repost it:


The wonderful truth, the magnificent truth, the incredible truth of the Christmas story is that God came to this hopeless, blinded, wayward world dressed in robes of humanity to live with us and suffer for us and die in our place. God dwelt among us as a babe, as a toddler, as a child, as a teenager, as a working young adult. He identified with our suffering, divided, and uncaring world. He revealed himself to us so we could know him through his words and deeds. He came to make salvation and union with God possible. Without the incarnation there would be no salvation, as much as without the cross and empty tomb there would be no redemption.


There are many characters or “lampstands” in the Christmas story: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, wise men, shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. However, when we preach about the characters in the Christmas story we need to hold before the congregation the main thing: Jesus was God incarnate who came to reconcile rebellious humankind to himself. The characters were like menorah lampstands shedding light together so that we can all see that God sent Jesus to save us from all our sins.

Without ignoring this contextual truth, we can look at some smaller picture highlights and use them as focused points of relevance. I am thinking of all the seniors. There are four of them and their journeys lend secondary insights that we could apply to lives of seniors today.


There are so many seniors in the churches in Singapore. During the heyday of the revival among evangelicals and the charismatics many youths came and followed Christ fervently. Most of these people are now gray-haired and white-haired and no-haired in our churches. If ladies stop dyeing their hair for a year we will indeed get a clearer impression of the ageing of our congregations. And there is a spirituality for seniors just as there is one for the kids in Sunday School. The seniors have to learn to navigate in a godly way some of the transitions and experiences they will encounter from 55 to 95. The four inspiring seniors in the Christmas story addresses some of them.

Seniors will face a faith challenge. As they near the end of their life, they will think more deeply about faith and life after death.  They will think about God, about religion, and about death and eternity. Zechariah’s story of a disappointed faith restored is a good story to inspire people to think about the quality of their own personal faith, and how God wants to assure them when they have doubts.


Elizabeth’s story is one of deep disappointment, shame, sadness and barrenness. She would have often recalled her past and felt she had failed to make a meaningful life. However, the angel came along and intercepted her pain and tears and delivered the impossible. In her senior years, her life took on purpose and meaning for she and her husband would have the privilege of rearing John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah. This inspiring senior prods us to realize that even in senior years and beyond retirement there can be a higher purpose and great weight attached to living out our faith till death or Jesus comes.


Simeon was another godly senior, a prophet without a card. A man ahead of his time. 400 years of silence – no prophetic word to Israel. Suddenly Simeon filled with the Spirit, guided by the Spirit declares by the Spirt the destiny of the child Jesus when the parents came to do Mary’s purification rites and the child’s dedication. Then he prays, Lord I am now ready to go home. I am ready to die. I have seen the Messiah and it is enough. Simeon was able to pray like that because he lived well –he walked in the Spirit and did not gratify the lusts of the flesh. Seniors in our churches need to learn to live well so that they can die well.


Finally, there was Anna. Great material for inspiring seniors. Seniors will need to learn to grieve well for they will lose loved ones, lose health, lose investments, lose their beauty and they would need to learn to grieve well. As well as Anna who lost her husband at the probable age of 21 after seven years of marriage. The text is silent after that but indications are that she grieved well and had no bitterness towards God or man for she spent her years in dedicated prayers and fasting, serving God and his people and the Temple. What an inspiring elder.

Advent has four Sundays leading up to Christmas day. Do consider preaching a series on inspiring seniors in the Christmas story. Singapore churches need to hear a relevant word for them. Let’s not always focus on the young; speak up to meet the needs of the elderly and inspire them to finish well.

Share this:

Read More →

Getting back my fitness and health

I did not know how unfit I was until I tried to to summit Bukit Timah Hill via Dairy Farm. I would park near Hillview MRT and take the Wallace Trail and veer off a side path that leads to the Dairy Farm Loop, and thence to Jungle Fall Path, and down Rengas Path and back to the Wallace Trail. A good workout that takes about 45 minutes or more, depending on your fitness.

I did this once with my wife and daughter after the Circuit Breaker and found it too challenging. In the past, with regular weekly training, this route would have been fairly easy and routine. I realised how unfit I was and decided that I need to devote more time to getting fit and healthy again. In addition, I noticed that I have been gaining weight the past year. So I have decided on a program to get healthy and fit again.


This has now become a weekly affair. It has been about a month or more of hiking the route, and I could feel that I am better able to tackle the Dairy Farm and Jungle Fall staircases with greater ease. I hope to reach my previous level of conditioning and fitness when it comes to hiking.


This is a more accessible activity and exercise. It is so convenient for me. When I hike I have to drive a good 15 minutes to get to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. When I cycle, within ten minutes of cycling, I would be in the Jurong Lakeside park connector, or the Ulu Pandan park connector. This makes cycling something I can do on the spur of the moment. Even when the cloud looks grey and heavy, I could take a risk and ride, for within minutes, I can take shelter and return once the rain stopped.

Cycling gives me a sense of freedom, of being mobile. I can explore different places and even take the foldable bike on the train to another park connector close to a MRT station. Besides the sense of freedom and adventure, I feel the pleasure of being faster and more relaxed than the joggers I pass by. Jogging is strenuous and requires tremendous effort. I need motivation to merely put on my shoes. Most times I give up before I leave the house. But with cycling I feel different: I look forward to it, the breeze and the coolness, the scenery I can immerse myself in, the people I can observe and look at. It is so much fun. And such a good exercise.

I have many pastor friends who cycle as well, and that makes it more fun when we cycle together and stop by places for a meal or a snack and catch up on what has been happening in our lives, what the Lord has been teaching us. Recently, I did one such jaunt with pastor Eng Hwa. We did a ride from Jurong East where I live, to Jurong Lake Gardens, Bukit Gombak’s Little Guilin, and Bukit Batok Park before we stopped for lunch and fellowship. Fun, exercise and edification – wonderful trinitarian combination.


Now for the second week I have begun to swim laps. I find this so good for the upper body and heart fitness. My arms felt weak and limp, and I was out of breath after ten minutes of non-stop swimming. I need to do this more often, especially since the swimming pool is literally in front of my block. No excuses – just do it. I hope I will be able to sustain this. I need to learn to enjoy the swim and not think of it as an exercise I “have to” do.

Besides these I try to do my planking; and work on stretching and strengthening exercises which can be done at home.

I feel that I have neglected my physical health while in pastoral ministry. I often cannot join my hiking friends who hike on Saturday mornings because of ministry commitments. Then on Monday, I feel emotionally drained and what I needed most was a restful and quiet day to remember, rest and relish, not to forget the chores and errands to run. Inevitably, my fitness and health suffers.

I really admire people with iron discipline and great time management and self-control. These people can squeeze time in the schedule and hit the gym and workout or run or exercise like a machine. They don’t need to enjoy what they do. Just do it. Get it over with. It’s necessary so just do it. Enjoyment, pleasure is not in the sights: its purely to oil the human machinery. Like taking bitter medicine: its good for you so down it. I am not like this. Too bad. I need to find something I enjoy so that it is sustainable for the long run.

This is all part of the spirituality of ageing well.

Share this:

Read More →

Knowing your limits

There is faith and there is prudence, and then there is wisdom to know the difference. As a Pentecostal I am fully aware of how our faith can break down limits the world sets upon us. However, I often forget the limits God places on us in kingdom positioning, assignment and anointing. There are measures of faith and grace. God sets the limit. Even our physical bodies has limits.

I forgot my physical limits and suffered for about three weeks. My wife and I were walking the park connector near our home. Staying home during the pandemic meant putting on weight and feeling lethargic. We wanted to burn some serious calories by doing a lengthy walk – a three hours walk along the Ulu Pandan Park connector.

Ulu Pandan PCN

I had felt a niggle on my left foot. Since I was a seasoned hiker, I ignored it. After all this was not an arduous hike up Bukit Timah Hill but simply a walk on flat paths. It should be alright. But alright it was not. Two days later my Achilles’ tendon was inflamed and I could not rest my left foot on the ground because of intense pain. I must confess this was not the first time when I over extended myself and found myself moving around the house on a chair with rollers.

The polyclinic appointment schedule was full all the time. I had no choice but to self-medicate. As I said, this was not the first time. I roughly knew it would take about a week to fully recover and regain my mobility. It was okay because I can still work from home. I was supposed to start recording my sermons in church, but couldn’t because I couldn’t walk. Not even from the home to my carpark. So my wife helped me record my sermon from home. – God bless her she had to serve me as I was virtually immobile.

What worsened things was I had a fall after a shower. I tried to hop on one foot over a low threshold but slipped and sprained of all places, the ankle of my left foot already inflamed at the heel. I suppose it was good to have all the pain on the left so at least my right foot was okay.

Reminds me of what St Paul said about how every member of the Body of Christ is vital to the full functioning and health of the whole. So too each member needs to be healthy and functioning to obey the Head and do God’s will.

Now I can walk on both feet – with a slight limp and with my left foot not fully flexible. I am very grateful to God, for when the pain was at its worse I would cry our earnestly for the Lord to have mercy and to heal. He has heard my cry. No instant miracle but a slow gradual healing, so that I could reflect of what wisdom He wants to impart to me and for me only.

Who knows, maybe this applies to you too? But I am convinced its for me. I NEED TO ACKNOWLEDGE MY PHYSICAL LIMITS AND GIVE ATTENTION TO THEM. At 64, I cannot run around the basketball court for hours. I cannot jump as I hard as I used to when I was 17 years old. Not even do what I used to do ten years ago, when hiking mountains and hopping downhill like a mountain goat. I must build up and condition my body from one level of intensity to the next gradually. I must also do proper warm-ups and warm-downs. These have to be mandatory. I used to be able to escape punishment from ignoring these – but not any more. I must listen to my body. My body is telling me but my memory is refusing to listen. My memory tells me, Come on, you have climbed mountains – what is this? A walk in the park. I forget my body is no longer as physically in tip-top condition like it was 10 years back . Back then I was training regularly and my legs were conditioned to take a lot of punishment. Not any more.

When I get well, and I am able to walk without the slightest tinge of pain. I will need to patiently and gradually build up the distance and intensity my legs will be able to cope with. No more sudden Increases in kilometres or incline. And proper warm-ups too. It may be weeks before I hike Bukit Timah Hill again. Maybe months, but I hope not. I fear that I would never hike the hills again.

I treasure mobility. I appreciate being able to walk free from pain. This is priceless.

Have you ever learned a similar lesson of accepting your limits? Share your story in the comment below.

Share this:

Read More →

Reunion with Swiss Cottage classmates

I was in Swiss Cottage Secondary School and Pre U center for seven years from 1968 to 1974. I have lost touch with most of my classmates from then. However, as we reach the empty nest and retirement years, there is a strong pull to reminisce about the shared school years. Furthermore, we have more time on our hands, and with the help of quick contact via social media, many school reunions suddenly spring to life. This year I got added into a Swiss Cottage chat group. It was such fun looking at old school photos, wondering who is who, and what happened to so-and-so, and talking about our form and “out of form” teachers.

As I was clearing leave before my sabbatical I decided to initiate contact with some classmates who I found out attend the same church near my home: the Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church. So I arranged to meet with them for breakfast before the service and and lunch after the service. We ended talking for about four hours at a coffeeshop opposite the church.

With Keng Seng at Coffee Bean

A few days later I had lunch and tea with one of them: Kuan Keng Seng, formerly a council member in All Saints Anglican Church. It was easily another four hours of catching up on our respective history since Secondary School. Higher education, career path, family and as in all reunions a miscellany of various emotions and memories of people and events as they arise.

We do have a great need to reminisce and recall the past in our later years. It is important to bring out the jig saws and try to make put the pieces together and make sense of what God had been doing and working in our life. We step into a needed process of wholeness and integration as we reflect on God’s presence and activity in our life. It can be a life-affirming and healing process.

Thankful, so thankful.

It is also another arena for gentle witness.

Share this:

Read More →

What if church members stopped dyeing their hair

More are hitting their fifties and sixties
More are hitting their fifties and sixties

What if everyone in church, men and women, stopped dyeing their hair for a year? Before the end of the year there would obviously be more grey and white heads in the congregation.

There would be a greater awareness of the relentless ageing process of members who we previously thought were forever young. Without treated hair, we would look different. For the women, the difference would be more telling. Most men do not dye their hair and it is usual to see some grey hair, mostly men’s, in most adult congregations. But if everyone stopped dyeing, there would be a sea of grey and white, since there are usually more women than men in church. We would be surprised, perhaps dismayed, at how old others and ourselves appear. It could even be depressing, or devastating for some.

The members of the leadership team would have a heightened awareness of the ageing process in the congregation. They would think of the various implications of that. The financial implications would certainly surface. So would the need to renew leadership and mentor the next generation. The urgency of outreach especially to young people would be highlighted. The need for new blood would stare them in the face. Maybe special fixtures to aid the seniors, need to be added and the building made senior friendly.

The pastor would likely have already been aware of the greying of the congregation. However the colour of hair can be shock therapy for a pastor. Suddenly the needs of the grey haired senior become urgent. Hopefully the pastor would do some research or ask other pastors about how best to equip and serve the seniors in their churches.

So it may be a good thing for everyone in church to stop dyeing their hair for a year. In addition, more people will offer them their seats in the MRT during peak hours.

Share this:

Read More →