If you Google the distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the common answer is about 8 kilometers. This is roughly equivalent to 10,000 steps, which happens to be the recommended daily step count by our Health Promotion Board! Not a significant distance in real terms. But the 33 years that separated Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and his crucifixion in Jerusalem was, in my estimation, the most significant span of time in the whole of human history. It was the centerpiece and zenith of all history when God became man, then was made sin for us at Calvary. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB). All this so that we might be ransomed and saved, because He loves us so.
How should we respond to this wonderful Saviour of ours? One of my favourite carols has the answer. The last line of the carol “In The Bleak Mid-Winter” reads “But what I can I give Him, Give my heart”. Thus, we give Him our hearts and respond in love, in gratitude and in obedience to what He wants us to do. And what is it that He wants us to do? The “good news of great joy” that the angel proclaimed to the shepherds is the same good news that Jesus wants us to proclaim, just before He ascended into heaven. It is this – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John3:16 ESV). In Matthew 28:19 (NIV), Jesus tells us to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”. This is the Great Commission given to us by Jesus.
I had the opportunity of recently attending an online conference of the Asian Christian Hospitals Association (ACHA), which is a grouping of a sizable number of Christian hospitals in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. What is common to them is that they were mostly started by Christian missionaries in the last 100 years as a means to practically help the then-impoverished communities and to point to Jesus’ love as the source of it all. It was a response to the Great Commission. In turn, many of these Christian hospitals had in recent years (but before the COVID pandemic) been active in medical missions work in countries all around the world.
When it came to Q&A time at the end of the Conference’s Plenary Session, I asked the Plenary Speaker what main message the attending hospitals could take away from his talk, even as they battled COVID in their respective countries. He responded simply, “Do missions exactly where you are”. I think what he meant was that, while there would always be an important role for overseas missions (and some YCKers have indeed faithfully answered God’s call to them on this), the starting point and base for us all is that we must proclaim the good news in our workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods and our families. To the many foreigners and migrant workers that He places in our midst.
This Christmas, as we all prepare our hearts anew to worship our Saviour and reflect on His First Coming (Advent) and His eventual Second Coming, may we also remember that the proclamation of the Good News starts “exactly where you are”.
By brother David Loh