Silenced by Truth: Zechariah’s response to Angel Gabriel

In the following article, Chris compares the differing responses of Zechariah and Mary towards Angel Gabriel’s proclamation of Good News.

As a child, I often wondered why Zechariah, father of John the Baptist and husband to Elizabeth – Mary’s cousin – was “unable to speak” and became “mute” after his encounter with Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:20). Correspondingly, I found it even more interesting to compare the aftermath of his response to Angel Gabriel with that of Mary. Therefore, in this Advent season, I found it timely and poignant to properly articulate my thoughts juxtapose these two pivotal characters of the Advent Narrative. Why did Mary’s brother-in-law, receive such a harsh treatment from Angel Gabriel and what made his response any different from Mary’s? What lessons can we then learn from both their responses?

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Placing the Inn Keeper in the Advent Narrative

Chris shares a bit more about the inn-keeper in the Advent narrative and wonders whether all of us are sometimes inn-keepers towards the Holy Family as well.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  – Luke 2:6-7

I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?

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Creating Space for God

Chris shares about the importance of carving out time to reconnect, recalibrate and recenter one’s life in God’s love.

Lately, I’m noticing an invitation to actively create space and make myself available for God in my life. The availability that I actively consent to, the willingness to sit with my inner restlessness and resist the constant (and inordinate) desire to do something (for God, for the church, for ministry-related activities etc. in a knee-jerk and sporadic manner), better allows me to cooperate with God’s divine grace and trust in His perfect timing. Continue reading “Creating Space for God”

A letter to Chris

Chris writes a letter to himself regarding burnout, disillusionment and the importance of self-care.

Dearest Chris from 2007,

Are you aware that the growing resentment that you’re feeling in your heart — that gnawing perception that you’re being used and abused by this ministry; that you’re only wanted when there is a problem to solve and when someone else is having a problem— is reflective of months (perhaps even years!) of pent-up frustration? Have you not realised that you’ve neglected your own needs for quite a while now? Don’t give me the “it is in giving that we receive” narrative that you have so often used to justify your supposed altruistic and selfless actions in this ministry. Stop trying so hard! Stop trying so hard to please everyone around you. Stop trying to cater to everybody’s needs whilst neglecting your own. That really is an impossible feat! No water can be drawn from an empty well; you cannot give what you do not have.
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Turbulence

Chris draws some parallels between spiritual growth and his (negative) encounters with turbulence.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)

I hate turbulence. Ever so often, a sinking feeling of dread and ambivalence surrounds me whenever I see the seatbelt sign light up and I hear the pilot’s steady voice explaining the current plight of the aircraft. Everyone quickly scrambles to take his or her seats and there’s an unmistakable tension in the air. During such moments, I seem to go through a ritual: I buckle up my seatbelts, compose myself mentally and psychologically, furiously grab my seat and brace myself for an unpredictable roller-coaster ride. And as the contents of my stomach tussle to make a second appearance on the seat in front of me, I pray as hard as I can. Turbulence is something far beyond my control. And that very lack of control scares the daylights out of me; it generates greater fear and insecurity on my part. Yet every flight that I have taken seemed to have some kind of turbulence, every journey that I have embarked upon seemed to have some form of challenging and potentially destructive force, threatening to push me off course, away from my destination and further from my endpoint.

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