Dear brothers and sisters,
We now enter the end of 2020 and the wonderful time of Christmas. This year everyone and the whole world, have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is certain that the world will never be the same with the new norms of social distancing, face masks and SOP to ensure that COVID-19 is contained.
Even our worship in Church will be different. For this year, we could not organise our annual Christmas Kuching City Parade, Combined Church Christmas Service and house-to-house carolling.
At the close of this financial year 2020, many businesses, corporations, hotel and travel industries, nations and even churches will be facing loss and deficit accounts. How do we move on in 2021? How are we to celebrate Christmas this December?
Last week, I was asked this question, “What is ONE WORD that I would use to describe this year 2020?” I had to pause and pray in the final week of Advent before Christmas. And if I may ask you: “What is your ONE WORD to summarise 2020?
My one word for 2020 is “HOPE.”
Firstly, I am thankful to God that I am still alive and as your bishop, I was able to offer Mass daily for everyone and for the world. I am grateful to our heavenly Father who listens to our prayers. This offers me great HOPE.
The first Christmas in Bethlehem was not as romantic as we make it out to be. Think of Joseph, with Mary who was in her ninth month of pregnancy, travelling 90 miles or 145 km from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When they arrived, they were unable to find a bed or a room and thus Jesus was born in a stable.
On this very first Christmas long time ago in Bethlehem, our God from on high came down to live among us on earth. In Jesus, God shares our human frailty and suffering. Eventually Jesus on the Cross, suffered and died for the sins of humanity and restored our relationship with our heavenly Father.
As such, though shopping Malls are decorated with Christmas trees and Santa Claus, the fact remains that Christmas is more than just presents, food or parties and carols, etc.
Christmas is “Emmanuel” a name which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). In Jesus, God comes to share our humanity, loneliness, rejection, sufferings, pain and death. Christmas celebrates Christ who is now with us and promises us life eternal.
Be assured that in the midst of this unprecedented COVID-19 suffering, Christ always remains with us. Thus when I have Jesus, I have everything that I would ever need, I have HOPE. With Jesus, we are able to HOPE because God will make a way when there seems no way (read Isaiah 43).
From 1-24 December 2020, the Archdiocese launched an Advent Appeal. With this funding we have offered HOPE by providing over 1000 basic food baskets (10Kg Rice, 1Kg Milo and 1 box of masks) to rural families and urban poor as well as supported all our parishes. I take this opportunity to thank you for your generosity and support during this COVID-19 CRISIS.
Allow me to share with you how to face and overcome every CRISIS. The Chinese language describes CRISIS as 危機. Comprising two Chinese characters: 危 means “Danger” while 机or written as 機means “Opportunity”. This means that in every Crisis there is both DANGER (危) and OPPORTUNITY (机).
So, for this Christmas, as people of Faith, let us believe, hold on, pray and trust in our Lord Jesus. We present every challenge to the Lord in PRAYER, seeking to DISCERN and to RESPOND to God’s will in the face of suffering, the cross and even death.
This Christmas, let us celebrate the Lord Jesus who comes to live with us. He is with us in our human suffering, pain and promises to remain for 2021. COVID-19 has given us this opportunity once again and invited us to focus on the Emmanuel – God with us. This is the very heart of Christmas.
“I, the Holy One of Israel, am your redeemer. I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13-14)
With prayers and blessing for a Holy Christmas and Blessed New Year 2021
+ Archbishop Simon Poh
*Editor’s note: Click here to read with Chinese and BM translations