Beyond the glittering lights on Orchard Road and the sound of carols at shopping malls, I reflect on the meaning of Christmas. Clearly, it means different things to different people. For millions of Christians from all traditions, it is a celebration of God’s kindness and love in the birth of Jesus Christ whom they acknowledge as Lord and Saviour. For others, it is the beginning of the year-end holidays – a time to give and receive, a time to party and have a good time.
For me this Christmas, the word HOPE keeps popping up. HOPE, aptly described as the little voice you hear whisper “maybe” when it seems the entire world is shouting “no”. It is a powerfully positive emotion and in many instances it is the kindest gift of all.
I found this in Unbroken, a powerful World War II story of Olympian Louie Zamperini who survived some 40 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean without food and water, and more than two years as a POW. Clearly, it was HOPE that kept him and his friends alive in the most brutal conditions.
Last Sunday night, I was a guest at a mini-concert organized by Diamonds on the Street. Crystal Goh and her friends co-created a number of songs with some of the girls at risk from a Girls Home. They shared about their journey of transformation driven by HOPE. Their family and friends who support them give them the HOPE to dream of a better life resulting in a strong drive to reach their potential. It was so inspiring hear about their new-found ambition – one wanted to be a businesswoman, another, a lawyer and so on. And you can see that they now have the HOPE to be because they received the gift of HOPE from people who care.
Last night a number of my colleagues celebrated Christmas with a former colleague and her family. She was struck down with aneurism 15 months ago and has since been in a comatose state. Her husband shared about the HOPE he has in God to answer their prayers for his wife – HOPE is keeping them going. I suddenly remembered the words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”
We held hands and formed a circle to exercise faith, each in our own way, to give him and his family the gift of HOPE. Together with the family, we do believe and HOPE that our prayers will be answered and she will get out of her comatose state soon.
This Christmas, there are many individuals and organizations sharing the gift of HOPE. Prison Fellowship Singapore, for example, extended HOPE to more than 1000 children of folks who are incarcerated with Christmas hampers of gifts sponsored by individuals and organizations, and personally delivered to their homes. The Boys Brigade “Share-A-Gift” reached out to more than 40,000 beneficiaries this year. Our partner Ripples have created a new series of slippers and are giving away a pair to the needy for every pair sold. And the list goes on.
Thomas Addison reminds us that there are three grand essentials to happiness in this life. And they are something to do, something to love and something to hope for. I often think that happiness is not something we pursue for pursuing it is like chasing after the wind – we will never catch it. Rather it is more like doing something for others, loving someone, giving the gift of hope. In so doing, we will feel the breeze of happiness chasing us from behind.
I can’t possibly express the gift of HOPE more beautifully than Emily Dickenson, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without words at never stops at all.”
Have a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!
Dr. William Wan
Christmas Eve, 2013.