18 December, Wednesday – Where are you, God?

18 Dec 2019

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Jeremiah 23:5-8

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.

So, then, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when people will no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt!” but, “As the Lord lives who led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel out of the land of the North and from all the countries to which he had dispersed them, to live on their own soil.”

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Matthew 1:18-24

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.

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God-is-with-us

Whenever we hear of the terrible and tragic news around the world, such as the hostage situation and deaths striking the Lindt Cafe in Sydney; the massacre of students in the Peshawar military-run school by the Pakistani Taliban; the Sewol ferry tragedy in Seoul; the victims of Super Typhoon Hagupit in Philippines, it is hard to believe that God truly is with us. Recently, a very dear friend of mine lost her beloved husband to an unexpected sudden death, and I could not help but share in her grief and tears, myself asking – God, are you there? In times like these, I ask God: did you show your glorious face to them in their final moments? Do they know You are real, did they know You as Love as they passed through this life?

On this side of life, we struggle to understand, give, receive, experience love. What is love to those of us who have experienced heartbreaks, growing pains, mental-, emotional-, sexual-abuse, loss and grief? How can we make sense of this constant falling short of true joy and fulfilment in life… this almost-but-not-there-yet-ness of many endeavours we put ourselves through? God seems so far from us in these desperate moments. It is cold, dark, lonely, and terrifying to find ourselves trapped in this valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) – living in this moment of the absence of God. But God is with us even in this very valley.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows. (Psalm 23)

How do we see God in this pitch-black night of sorrow and fear? The reality of our understanding of darkness is testament to our existent experience and knowledge of light. As darkness is not a level of brightness, but the absence of light, we need to trust that we have once seen and experienced Pure Light. This is the prior knowing of our soul. We have been kissed and visited by the Light of God when God had knitted us in our mother’s womb – and this imprint of Love and Light is carried deep inside of our soul throughout this life. Our constant realisation of the falling-short-of joy and fulfilment in this life, the frustrating incompleteness of life’s endeavours, serves to point us to the light of Eternal Truth, Way and Life.

The secret is to ‘walk through’ this valley of the shadow of death as Psalm 23 tells us. It is not enough to stand at the mouth of the valley staring into darkness and fearing the worst. As consuming as whatever darkness we experience can be, there is always an imperceptible glimmer of brightness by which our eyes eventually acclimatise to see. We can still discern the edges of this shadowed valley and fumble through. And God-is-with-us in each present moment.

The Word proclaims His promises of rescue and shelter for us. His Promises are the rod and staff by which we steady our gait. This is what we need to cling onto in times we feel shattered by fear and grief, hatred and injustice.

Baby Jesus was himself pushed through the darkness of Mary’s birth canal. Our Lord was born unto us after much human struggle. His first sounds were cries of fear and confusion, turned to relief and comfort of Mary’s breast. The God Almighty allowed Himself to experience the necessary human passage through time and shadow in order to be one with us and share in our human passions and sufferings and ultimately, death.

May we realise that this, is how God-is-with-us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Thanksgiving: Jesus, you have gone through everything we will ever go through in our lives. Your first infant cries; your playground scuffles; the frustration of learning the ropes of carpentry; the betrayal of friendships; the humiliation of slander; injustice for innocence; and cruel death on Calvary. For Your companionship in all that I fear and suffer in, I thank You Lord.

Prayer: We pray for the innocent departed souls of all we hear in the news and of our loved ones. May our Lord shine His Divine Mercy and Love upon them and grant to them Eternal Peace and Rest.

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