Daily Archives: December 24, 2013

Wednesday, 25 Dec – Good Grief!

25 Dec – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord: Midnight Mass

A Saviour Is Born For Us

Tonight we celebrate the birth of a Child who was to bring the joy of God’s saving love to the whole world. And we make our own the jubilant cry of the angels “Glory to God in the highest.”

– The Sunday Missal
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Isaiah 9:1-7

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.
For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.
For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.
For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.
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Titus 2:11-14

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.
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Luke 2:11-14

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

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Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord

There are certain cartoons that I used to watch around Christmas season – which always made the holidays more festive to me. I’ve been trying to pass on these traditions to my kids and so my wife and I showed them “A Charlie Brown Christmas” recently. Amidst all the holiday cheer and celebration – Charlie Brown confides in his best friend (Linus) that he’s feeling anxious and depressed with the over-commercialization of the holiday. In turn, Charlie Brown tries to seek out the true meaning of Christmas (from consulting with his psychiatrist Lucy to attempting to find distraction by directing the school play). Finding no answer to his dilemma – he eventually throws his hands up in frustration and pleads for help. Then, Linus responds by reciting from today’s Gospel reading of Luke (v.8-14):

“In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields… The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy… Today, a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’”

“…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

I could not help but consider the fear that must have been felt with the anticipated birth of Jesus. But in this context, there are two types of fears to consider – 1) to be scared of or, 2) to stand in awe or in reverence towards someone. The difference between them is based on whether one believes the object of our fear is someone to whom is worthy of respect and trust. As Christians, we need not fear, as it is written “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). Yet, we also need to revere and respect God, for, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10)

King Herod was one who neither revered, nor feared the Lord – but rather, was beholden to his own worldly desires. Although a converted Jew and elected King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, King Herod only adhered to the law when it suited him to do so. In order to preserve his power, he murdered numerous members of his family (including a wife and three sons) whom he suspected of plotting against him. And upon hearing of the news of the birth of the newborn king from the three wise men, Herod ordered the death of all boys under the age of two around the vicinity of Bethlehem. Consumed by paranoia and depression, Herod suffered through the rest of his life and eventually died an excruciating painful death resulting from kidney disease.

While tending to their sheep in the pitch dark of the night, one can imagine the shock racing through the shepherds’ hearts as they were blinded by the sudden bright pure light of the angels. Upon receiving the assurance of the angels’ message of the Savior’s birth, the shepherds responded in trust, hurrying off to Bethlehem to find the infant Jesus. Having seen the the newborn Christ-child, they praised and glorified God for allowing them to witness the birth of their Savior.

Reflecting on the Annunciation of Mary and Joseph, we hear the angel Gabriel reassure Mary that she had no need of fear, for she had found favor with God (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph was also reassured by the angel that what is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit and he should continue to take her to be his wife. (Matthew 1:18-24) Their reverence for the Lord allowed them to submit to His will and obediently follow His commands.

Each of these people had a choice to make when confronted with the mysterious news of Christ’s Incarnation – either trust in the Lord and allow Him to take over and guide the eventual outcome or succumb to natural fear and allow it to consume their thoughts and actions. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, who revered and obeyed the Lord, experienced great joy for they were blessed with peace and hope in Christ.

As we celebrate today, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us praise and glorify God for the many gifts and blessings He’s bestowed on us throughout the year. More importantly, let us bow our heads down low and humbly revere the Almighty for the precious gift of salvation that He has bestowed on us through eternity. Let us respond to His great love by seeking out the Charlie Browns in our lives and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas… for they need not fear as the good news of great joy will be for all the people…for a Savior had been born for all, who is Christ and Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

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Thanksgiving: Lord – we praise you! For You so loved the world that You gave Your one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Prayer: Heavenly Father – we pray for all the non-believers in our lives. We pray that during this season, that You use us as Your messengers to continue spreading the good news to a world that so sorely needs to know our beloved Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, 24 Dec – The Promise of Every Christmas Eve

24 Dec – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Vigil Mass)

Today’s reflection is written by Stefanie Ng, our guest writer for this Christmas season. Stefanie has been a reader of Oxygen for the past two years. She is a convert to the Catholic faith and is passionate about sharing the living word of God. She is an avid reader and her favourite authors include Henri Nouwen, Joseph Girone and Paulo Coelho.

We thank Stephanie for taking time out to write and share her faith with the readers of OXYGEN. =)

The OXYGEN team

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Jesus, Son of David

God prepared the people of Israel to receive his Son. May we too be ready to welcome him.

– The Sunday Missal
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Isaiah 62: 1-5

About Zion I will not be silent, about Jerusalem I shall not rest
until saving justice dawns for her
like a bright light
and her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will then see
your saving justice,
and all kings your glory,
and you will be called a new name
which Yahweh’s mouth will reveal.
You will be a crown of splendour
in Yahweh’s hand,
a princely diadem in the hand of your god.
No more will you be known as ‘Forsaken’
or your country be known as ‘Desolation’;
instead, you will be called
‘My Delight Is In Her’
and your country, ‘The Wedded’;
for Yahweh will take delight in you
and your country will have its wedding.
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Acts of the Apostles 13: 16-17, 22-25

Paul stood up , raised his hand for silence and began to speak:

“Men of Israel and fearers of God, listen!” The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors and made our people great when they were living in Egypt, a land not their own; then by divine power he led them out.

After forty years, he deposed him and raised up David to be king, whom he attested in these words,

“I have found Davin son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will perform my entire will.” To keep hi promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John, when he proclaim a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his course he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; there is someone coming after me whose sandal I am not fit to undo.”

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Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham

Christmas Eve’s dinner is a relatively new tradition in my Buddhist family. It started 15 years ago when as a young adult I was baptized into the Catholic faith on Christmas day. To support my new faith, my family started celebrating with a Christmas Eve dinner every year. Back then, as a new Christian, I was imbued with hope for conversion of my family members as I share the story of the birth of Jesus – “Emmanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us”. Each year, I will retell the nativity story passionately over the Christmas Eve dinner and plan party games that educate everyone about the true meaning of Jesus’ birthday.

But over the years, as I grew from one who is heavily reliant on my family to a fiercely independent-minded adult to now, a provider to my parents, my relationship with my family went through stages – frustrations, acceptance and forgiveness. Over the years as reality sets in, I realized that I had viewed my ‘perfect’ family through rose-tinted glasses – previously buried family squabbles re-surface, generation gap widen, personality clashes, etc. For a while, I was so deeply disappointed that I even tried to stay away from family gatherings.

Three years ago, I joined a ladies bible fellowship and in that very first year, we embarked on a quest to explore female characters in the bible. We stumbled upon Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife (Bathesheba), leading us to study the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Luke. That was when we discovered that the ancestry of Jesus includes dubious characters and flawed personalities: Jacob tricked his elder brother into giving up his birth rights; Judas was an accomplice is selling his half-brother to slave traders, King David committed adultery, King Ahaz practiced human sacrifices victimizing his own son, among others. But despite their trespasses, God never give up on them but with mercy and grace, pursued them to repent. In the end, God is faithful and still fulfilled His promise that salvation comes from the House of David – this is the promise that we witness every Christmas Eve – the birth of Jesus from David’s lineage.

Every family has their untold stories of black sheep, strayed sheep or prodigal son. But what keeps each family going is the loving good Shepherd, our faithful God who hears our prayers. He encourages us to persevere, strengthen us to continue to bring back the strayed sheep to the fold and embolden us to continue to be witnesses for Him. If you are like me, the only Christian in the family, then it becomes even more critical for you to shine for Christ. By our examples of forgiveness, reconciliation and spirit of joy, we can glorify God and make Him known to our family members, and bring the re-birth of Jesus into the lives of those who have fallen away.

Baby Jesus is a well-known yet unfamiliar figure in today’s commercialized Christmas celebrations. In our imperfect families, the perfect baby has come into our homes, for our hearts to be opened to receive Him. Over the Christmas Eve dinner table tonight, are you going to re-tell the Nativity story and proudly announce the birth of Jesus, “God-is-with-us”?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stefanie Ng)

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Prayer : We pray for reconciliation of family members separated by misunderstandings, un-forgiveness, vested interests and ideological differences. May the message of the Nativity – the perfect baby born into this imperfect world for the love of mankind – melt the hardened hearts of many to receive the mercy and grace of our Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. Their faithful obedience to God facilitated the birth of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate tonight, and by all Christians from over two thousand years before.

 

 

Tuesday, 24 Dec – To Build A Home

24 Dec

For our Christmas special this year, the reflections are written by a guest writer, Stefanie Ng, and three of our regular writers – Michael Goo, Nicholas Chia and Steven Su.

As many of you will be going for Vigil or Midnight Mass later, we have posted the reflections on our website for your early reading:

Monday, 24 December – The Promise of Christmas Eve

Tuesday, 25 December – Preparation for Christmas

The other 2 reflections will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy!

Have a Blessed Christmas,
The OXYGEN Team
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2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’
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Luke 1:67-79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue
and he has raised up for us a power for salvation
in the House of his servant David,
even as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,
thus he remembers his holy covenant
the oath he swore
to our father Abraham
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and virtue
in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare the way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins;
this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’

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Your house and your kingdom will endure before me; your throne will be established forever

It is Christmas Eve today as we read this. In most homes and churches, the nativity scene of the Holy Family in the manger reminds us of God’s promise of salvation, the promise that this tiny blessed babe brings with him into the world.

I find it ironic that during the reign of King David, he had mulled over building a fine temple to worship God. Hundreds of years later, the Son of God would be born in a lowly manger instead of a temple of cedar, surrounded by farm animals instead of trimmings of gold, wrapped in swaddling cloth and not royal robes. I do not think that David expected these circumstances when God promised him that He would make his reign secure and that his descendant’s kingship shall be established forever (2 Samuel 12:13). So humbled was he to hear God’s promise that he trusted that God would carry out His plan as promised, whatever the circumstances. Yet it was under these very circumstances that God would unfold His plan of salvation for all mankind.

God does not demand of us a rich altar wherein to worship Him. He asks for no gold or silver. He reminds us in 2 Samuel 7:6 that when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He “travelled” with them in a tent. He also reminds David that He had never once requested for a fine temple, and that He is God Almighty, He needs no rich altar adorned with gold to do great things. Instead, God will build David a “house”, one that will last. There is no point for rich temples or altars if our hearts are not rich and right in faith with God, for it is in a faithful heart that God dwells. Think of Abraham: “You found his heart to be faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him…” (Nehemiah 9:8). Or David himself: “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and upright in heart” (1 Kings 3:6). Or The Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). God has demonstrated that all He requires of us is a good and faithful heart that will yearn for Him, rejoice in Him, and trust in Him. A heart that is full of love, no matter what our condition in life may be. We could be wealthy or poor, healthy or physically weak in heart. The spirit of our heart will tell of the health of our soul. And that is what God looks for in each and everyone of us: “…Yahweh does not judge as man judges; humans see with the eyes; Yahweh sees the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, and all the promises that He brings with Him, let us take a moment to also prepare our hearts as God’s dwelling-place. Let us clear the cobwebs of neglect and open our hearts earnestly to Him, with the knowledge that God works wonders in a heart that is humble and faithful.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to turn our hearts back to you. Help us to follow in the faith of Abraham and David, and build a “temple” in our hearts, worthy for Your dwelling.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks Lord, for accepting us as we are, no matter our circumstances, and despite all the blessings that You have bestowed upon us, You have asked so very little of us in return. I pray that we remember always to count our blessings, and give You thanks always for Your promise of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.