PASTORAL LETTER, January 2018
A PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE EPISCOPAL OFFICE,
THE METHODIST CHURCH IN MALAYSIA
by Bishop Dr. Ong Hwai Teik, December 2019
Christmas: The King Unexpected?
We once again journey to Bethlehem after a season of waiting in Advent, to behold the “glory of the new born King”.
I am reminded of two central encounter passages when it comes to celebrating Christmas.
The first is - ESV Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…”
The King of kings is “internationally expected and recognized” as shown by the intentional journey undertaken by the wise men from the East. They were so deeply gripped by the certainty of His existence and the awesomeness of Who He is that they cannot but undertake the journey of homage to behold the “glory of the new born King”. The authenticity of this truth remains unchanging because the Cosmic King is immutable [never changing]. He will enduringly remain “internationally recognised and expected” even though there will be passing earthly “Herodian powers and authorities” that will repudiate and even plot to snuff out His existence and reality!
The second passage is ESV John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" 48 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." 49 Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 50 Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these."
The King of kings was not expected and recognized by Nathaniel. He had his own drawn–up expectations of the Messiah King. What finally “broke through” to him was that Jesus the King, knew something which was most personal and private to him – that He saw him under the fig tree! It was ostensibly a most significant, personal and private “unknown to others” matter so that it was most astounding that Jesus would know that and still affirm him! But then the King of kings had to mildly reproof him for being cynical at first, to now gushing with acknowledgement and confession, adding “you will see greater things than this”.
It is the proven testimonies of countless through the ages, that when one actually “finds” the King of kings, He will always exceed the boundaries of one’s imagination and expectation. The Scriptures indicate clearly that angels are a sign of the royal presence of the Cosmic King. We worship this same Cosmic King, like the expectant Magi from the East and the non-expectant Nathaniel - and wait to “see greater things than this”- this Christmas and into the New Year as we live missionally to His glory.
As we expectantly and reverently celebrate Christmas with worship, delight and merriment, may we do so “being there” in worship of the Cosmic King as the Magi did. May we expectantly receive with joy even as we give with delight, knowing that giving is foremost an attitude, not amount; a matter of willingness not wealth. May we remember the humble and sparse circumstances in which the Cosmic King was born, and Who was most personal with Nathaniel – so that we keep things meaningful, sincere, simple and warm.
May the Sovereign Lord grace you with a heart-warming Christmas and a “surprising” New Year!
NIV Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.
NLT Ephesians 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Bishop Ong Hwai Teik