"Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born king."Charles Wesley
Of course, those aren't the original words of his song. The old lyrics started with "Hark! how all the welkin rings."
Now you know why they changed it.
Yesterday, I was at the Bread of Life Ministry on Yin Yee's invitation for an extra early Christmas bash this year at their new church over at the Trade Centaur (yes, you read right, - it's spelt that way),
I can think of a couple of reasons why they have decided to celebrate Jesus' birthday on the 1st of December instead of on the good ol' two five. Considering that the party slash variety concert theme is 'Real Christmas', it might very well be an indirect subversion of all the secular and commercial "traditions" that have sprung up globally over the centuries (a big, fat, jolly man in Coca Cola colours comes to mind), and an attempt to bring back the real reason for the joy of the season; the Birth of Christ. After all, why not rejoice His coming onto planet Earth on any old day everyday if he's that important to you, right? The second reason is less to-save-the-world-from-its-stupidity-ish - the KMC students won't be around for the regular winter solstice Christmas.
Oh incidentally, I took my very first elevator ride this year with Hua Min - a lamb from the Bread of Life's flock who I met on the ground floor of the Centaur - because I didn't know which floor the church is on. It's just some stupid vow I made at the beginning of the year to get more exercise for myself. But it got stuck at the floor we were suppose to get out. The doors opened an inch apart, and stopped abruptly - along with the warm hum of the machinery.
Getting stuck in an elevator in the first elevator ride I took in a year - God must have assigned some really lousy, third-rate screenwriter to do my life story. The intercom and the distress bell were both out of order. I actually laughed out loud because the whole series of coincidences was, frankly, quite hilarious to me. Hua Min was not amused.
Fortunately, it started moving again to the ground floor, where more church girls got on in spite of Huamin's and my warnings. One girl simply said, 'It works fine. It just doesn't open on the second floor. You just need to ride it up to the third floor and then hit the stairs. Some Satanists sabotaged the works.' I made up the last bit, of course. For some reason, I really did half-expect her to add something like that. Sigh, people are just not fun these days.
I also wonder just how often Hua Min goes to church to not know about the elevator glitch.
Her name is Lemon. Addendum: this is a picture of her before we got together.
At the entrance, I ran into Phoebe and she was giving out some... err... tinselly, glittery... thingies to arriving guests. It was the first time I saw her in a saree.
Cute, ain't she?
Cute, ain't she?
Things kicked off with Nickson and the church band performing a few Jesus songs - and damn, I didn't know that Nick can sing so well!
Well, actually I did know. Every night when I walk past his house, I can hear him singing and playing his guitar. It's his way of praying, he told me.
You'll have to excuse the quality of the pictures in this post. They tend to be somewhat grainy and messed up chromatically, because I didn't want to use the flash and disturb the performers. Photoshop can only salvage so much.
The thing I really didn't know was that Yin Yee can play the flute. And afterwards, Yin Yee stepped back and flute dude launched into an amazing Amazing Grace solo.
Next up was a slightly-revised skit by Lester based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Jesus (Luke 15:11-32), and the actors were that-batch-17-guy-whose-name-I-don't-know - and our very own Microbiology lecturer, Mr. Anand,
It's a pity that I already know which parable they were talking about right after I've heard the first line - it's kind of like watching the same movie twice, but it's worth the price of admission just to watch Anand freak out and go "MY SON!" at the prodigal son returneth bit of the skit. Not that I had to pay any admission, of course - the Bread of Life Ministry paid for everything, fruit cake, drinks, tinselly glittery thingies and all (I'm eating the candy they gave out yesterday right this moment as I write). I simply must ask them where they bought those butterscotch flavoured ones.
One thing I did realise was the number of hot chicks affiliated with the church,
Almost made me want to renounce all my pagan ways and embrace God right there and then. Same reason why I attended my first ever camp at the local Seck Kia Eenh, and subsequently became a practising Buddhist. Like I always say, if you must have motives, have questionable ones. I am still in my early twenties - I still retain my teenage right to remain stupid.
Of course, no Christmas themed shindig is ever complete without breaking out the choir,
One of the things I often do is watch other people's expression when they are singing hymns in church, and watch the conviction and passion written all over their happy faces. There's a secret joy, a happiness, a sense of being of free from all the doubts, disbelief, insecurities and semantics (well, maybe not semantics) the rest of us are saddled with.
And finally, an exit performance by the church's rawk stars!
I was told that the volunteers worked way into the night glitzing up the simple, little church in anticipation of the big bash, not to mention all the time they spent rehearsing for the awesome performances of the night - all to spread a little bit of that cheer and joy that I see so often on their faces. There's something quite moving about their willingness to try and share, and spread the love.
Anyway, before I end this post, there's just one more thing,
Midway through the night's programme, the pastor (and founder of the Bread of Life Ministry) took to the stage to speak to us on the subject of Christmas, and shared a verse with us from the Book of Luke chapter two that went something like this,
"... the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Saviour was born..."
He started off by letting us identify with him, telling us the story of how he used to be an idealistic young man who thought that Christianity is a whole lot of hogwash - until he discovered the great joy of accepting Christ into his life. He related his efforts to us, about how he would talk to anyone who would listen about the Good Word everywhere he went (which apparently included speaking at train stations and inside the railway cars too). He described the hardships of people ridiculing and even hating him for his choice of faith, and how most of his relatives do not share his beliefs.
Next, he tell us about how Christianity is for everyone ("... to all the people...") and that it didn't matter if you aren't Jewish, American, English or any of the races which us Asians typically associate with the religion, citing an example of the opposing view of a scientifically-inclined individual who would think that Christianity is 'for people that aren't intelligent', to quote the good reverend. He went on (quite to my surprise) to allude that intelligent people think that they should believe in the theory of evolution because it reinforces their identity of being smart.
Then, at the crux of his speech, he pulled out a shocker. He said that Charles Darwin himself converted to Christianity and recanted his ideas on his deathbed.
Or at least, it would have been a shocker if I haven't already heard that nigh a thousand times by various people who were - shall we say - disapproving of my belief in Darwin's theory? What the reverend referred to was the infamous Lady Hope story, which have, by large, been discredited. The strongest evidence against it, in my opinion, is the dismissal of the story as pure fabrication by Henrietta, Darwin's daughter who was present in Darwin's last days (in spite of her being a Christian herself and was pained by her father's irreligious ideas), and that view is shared by the other members of the household. Not that any of this matter to me, of course. Whether Darwin believes in his own ideas or not does not subtract anything from the fact that it's still a damn good theory.
The pastor's speech started off great, and he was pleasant to listen to. He was earnest. He shared with us his experiences. He told us about his beliefs. He expressed his opinions of human nature. Then, he recounted a story that has been universally considered to be false (or disputed - whichever floats your dinghy) - and that, in my opinion, casted a hue of questionability on the other things he said before that. I'm sure that in debators' and speech-makers' lingo, that would be termed as "Stravovaski's Blunder" or "Demosthene's Oratory Suicide" or some other equally cool names.
I have nothing against the pastor, nor do I think that his integrity is suspect - I am quite sure that he merely repeated the story after hearing it from someone else and neglected to check its veracity. It's like how some of my Muslim friends always tell me that Neil Armstrong converted to Islam after he heard the Azan from the moon (he personally denied it publicly), and how a few of my Christian friends said that national hero Datuk Azhar Mansur converted to Christianity and moved to the Land of Auz (publicly denied too last year by the Datuk, who's in Langkawi right now). I've decided to write about this because I simply have quite enough of that Darwin myth rearing it's ugly head up again and again in Creationism vs. Evolution debates - even though it really shouldn't have any pertinence on either ideologies' proponents' opinions.
I really did enjoy the way Pastor Francis talked though. His intonations and inflections in speech was reminiscent of the popular stereotype of TV evangelists that go, "Belieeeeeve in Jesus-ah, and you shall be saved-ah," and I would certainly love to hear him speak again someday. I've heard a lot of nice things about him before this - and after meeting him for real and shaking his hand, I find that I couldn't help liking the man too.
Anyway, thanks for having me over for the Christmas bash. Here's a shout out to all the people over at the Bread of Life Ministry for working so hard to make this pah-tay such an awesome success!
Happy birthday, Jesus.
And Merry Christmas, y'all.
k0k s3n w4i