After I graduated from my theological education, I started to serve in a church school. The age of the congregation was similar, there were no elderly people or adults, only young people. Thus, I had very little experience of organising funeral services. On the contrary, I had lots of experience helping brothers and sisters arrange weddings. Later on, I started to serve in another church, its congregation was comparatively older, I had, on many occasions, bid farewell to brothers and sisters and sometimes their families in funeral services.
Serving in Manchester Alliance Church these two years, I have helped brothers and sisters to organise funeral services for their families. Recently, I received two pieces of rather sad news. There are brothers and sisters whose family emigrated to the UK and passed away due to illness. And a member of church rested in peace in the Lord. As a pastor, I had to accompany brothers and sisters and their families during this difficult time in their lives, and I had to deal with my own deep sorrow. When arranging their memorial and funeral services, I again reflected on the book of Ecclesiastes.
The book of Ecclesiastes was written over 3000 years ago when Solomon was the king of Israel. He applied the great wisdom bestowed on him by God to study and to explore all aspects of life. King Solomon, being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote a book full of wisdom about life. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, a passage that is familiar to us all, he began with this statement, there is time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. He then used a series of his observations to illustrate his view. As a whole, King Solomon wanted readers to understand that people are limited. Birth, old age, sickness and death are inevitable stages of life. I recall a pair of couplets on the entrance to the Happy Valley Catholic Cemetery in Hong Kong: “My body backed to the old earth this evening, and so will yours some morning. “
The birth and death of a person are like a bracket that wrap up our lives. Therefore, people’s responsibility is to learn to cherish today and live well in the present. How can we put this idea in practice? As a whole, through building a relationship with the creator of heaven and earth, we will be able to learn how to treasure today and live well in the present. When we come and build a relationship with him, we understand that every day of our lives is His grace. Therefore, we must treasure every day that He gives to us. To express our thankfulness to Him, we must live well in the present to bring glory to His name. Everyone will have to face death, however before it comes to us, we have to utilise every opportunity to build a relationship with God. In his conclusion in the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon wrote, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Christmas is a time to remember Jesus’ birth. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) May everyone, who does not know our God, understand the meaning of Jesus’ birth.
Pastor Winson Chan