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December 2020

Peaceful World: A Christmas Carol of Hope and Peace

    I read somewhere that, before the songwriter started writing, he went up a tall building and viewed the ruins of the city. This is the city of Manila, a day on December 1946, just right after the end of World War II. The songwriter, Felipe de Leon, it was said, viewed the devastation of war on his beloved city and wrote a Christmas carol, a ballad wishing peace in the aftermath of destruction and bringing hope to a world longing for redemption. 

    Below is the song “Payapang Daigdig” with its accompanying English translation. May you find the Prince of Peace in your life, and move forward with hope in your heart amidst the turmoil and hardships that this Covid Year brought us. 

"Payapang Daigdig" (Felipe de Leon. 1946)

Ang gabi'y payapa  // Lahat ay tahimik   // Pati mga tala  // Sa bughaw na langit .

Kay hinhin ng hangin // Waring umiibig  // Sa kapayapaan  // Ng buong daigdig.   

Payapang panahon  // Ay diwa ng buhay  // Biyaya ng Diyos  // Sa sangkatauhan.      

Ang gabi'y payapa  // Lahat ay tahimik   // Pati mga tala  // Sa bughaw na langit .


(English Translation)

“Peaceful World”

This evening is peaceful // Everyone is so quiet. // Even the stars

In the blue sky.

The wind is so gentle // Acting like it is in love. // This is the peace

For the whole world.

This time of peace // Is the core of life. // The grace of God

Is for all humanity.

This evening is peaceful // Everyone is so quiet. // Even the stars

In the blue sky.

(Translated by: DWC)

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Your Christmas Traditions

   Some Christmas traditions around the globe are very similar. For example in Poland, people celebrate Christmas with a formal, candle-lit Christmas Eve meal called Wigilia. The meal, which is meat-free, traditionally consists of 12 courses, one for each apostle. This meal starts with a prayer and culminating with each family member wishing everyone a joyous celebration. 

   In the Philippines, Filipinos celebrate Christmas Eve with a midnight meal called Noche Buena. Close to 12:00 in the evening, family members gather around the table, open up with a prayer, and feast on the food that usually consist of lechon, pansit, bibingka, and other traditional delicacies. After the meal, the fellowship ends with the opening of gifts. Everyone celebrates this gift-giving time and affirms the love for each other. Isn't this tradition very similar to the Polish tradition? 

  So, what Christmas traditions do you practice in your families? In my family we celebrate Christmas by spending time with each other. When we were in Taiwan, we would travel to Kenting and enjoy the sand, waves, hiking, and trips to the night market. On Christmas Eve, we would go stroll around the many interesting booths at the night market and visit a local pizza place for our meal. At midnight, we would relax in our hotel room and watch a movie together. Christmas Day, we would go to the beach and enjoy the water for a few hours. During the remaining days in Kenting, we would go hiking in the nearby forest and recreational park, eat sea food, and just enjoy quiet moments at a coffee place by the sea shore.

   Now, that we are in Illinois, we have similar practices. We still have movie time on Christmas Eve, pansit and sea food for our meals, and quiet time with each other. On Christmas Day, we would open our gifts and appreciate each other’s love and thoughtfulness. Later, we would visit Grandma and Grandpa at their place for a time of pizza, fellowship, and maybe some moments of watching football. The only difference is wearing our face masks during this time of visit.

    So, what are your Christmas traditions?

Joy to This Ugly World

Could Christmas be ugly and still joyful? Of course! The First Christmas story had its share of ugliness. There was “weeping and loud lamentation” when a significant number of children were slaughtered by Herod. (See, Matthew 2:18 and Jeremiah 31:15). This is a tragic chapter of the Christmas story. We should be mourning with these families who have lost loved ones. How about the part of the story that prophesied against the proud, the powerful, and the rich? “He pulled powerful rulers from their thrones and lifted up humble people. He filled hungry people with good things and sent rich people away with nothing.” (See, Luke 1:52-53. ISV). Unpleasant news for these members of society. It sounds like it won’t be a happy Christmas if you are rich and powerful. 

What other “ugly events” do we see in the First Christmas story? There is the shame that Mary and Joseph experienced when they found out about the pregnancy. There is the fear of the shepherds. There is the doubt of Zechariah regarding the news of his wife bearing a son. There is the chaos from the census and confusion in Mary and Joseph’s accommodation, so much so that they ended up delivering the baby in a “feeding trough” or manger. What an ugly way to welcome a child to this world. (See, Matthew chapters 1-2, and Luke chapters 1-2).

In every instance of ugliness, we witness the intervention of God through an angel or angels, and transforming the unpleasant, unbearable, and tragic situations to become stories of joy. Joy to the world, the Lord has come! We can sing with joy together with Simeon, on that First Christmas story, when he first laid eyes on baby Jesus. Simeon said: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (See. Luke 2:29-32. ESV). 

What ugly things are you experiencing this Christmas time in 2020? Ask God to send His angels to intervene in your life. And then, with joy in your heart, see the salvation in Jesus for all the people of the world. Merry Christmas!

This Baby Today

I was singing the song “Away in a Manger” and practicing on my guitar in preparation for a video recording with my family that we intend to share to our friends on social media. So, I was reading the lyrics for the hundredth time, trying my best to internalize the message of this song. Quite frankly, I was inspired. And because of the song, I wrote this short poem “This Baby Today” to express this movement within my heart. Enjoy!


He would look up to the faces of Mary and Joseph, and be smiling;

He would reach out with his tiny fingers, the Magis’ presents, admiring.

He would turn, listening with the shepherds, to the angels singing.

He would be near them, and those falling and rising.

I imagine this baby today, 

By my side everyday.

He would reach out with his hand, my face, touching,

He would lean into my heart, listening and cooing.

He would turn to the tree, all the Christmas gifts and blessing.

He would be near me, whenever I am falling or rising.

I imagine this baby today, 

By your side all the way.


(David W. Clemente. 2020 December 19. Illinois)

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God's Light in Creation

Do you know the Chinese character for “light?” It is Guang (光). A Japanese artist explains that the original character represents two characters or images. The first image describes the three rays of a rising sun emerging between two mountains. Eventually, it became the pictogram for fire. This character evolved into three rays set on a straight horizontal line, which is what we have today. The second image is the bottom one, with two lines, one straight vertical line and another vertical line with a tail curled forward to the front. This image represents the older character for people or persons. So, “Guang” really says the light from creation is shining to everyone. Like what John said in John 1:11, “Jesus is the true Light, and he came and shone to all creation” (Jn. 1:9-13. Phillips). And this is the thought I want to share today.

Isaiah 55:12 encourages the readers “to go out with joy and be led forth with peace.” Verse eleven describes God’s word coming down from heaven and raining down on all the earth and fulfilling the purposes of God. Our study of the etymology of Guang certainly resonates with this Isaiah imagery. The text continues with the action words of “clap” and “go,” painting the picture of the “trees of the field clapping their hands” and the mountains coming out in singing. The biblical narration tells us of all creation rejoicing with the people. 

We can do several things: clapping and singing, rejoicing and going out with peace. These are great ways of approaching the coming new year. But, all of these will not come without hardships and trials. The Covid pandemic has made 2021 a trying year, full of unwanted encounters and unpleasant surprises.

I am not going to suggest that we relive the many trials we have had this 2020. Many of us have personally experienced suffering brought by the Covid pandemic. Some of us are still struggling with health issues, family tensions, financial sacrifices, and other problems. What I am suggesting is that we clap with joy and bring in the New Year starting from our trials and tribulations. We move from suffering to joy because God is leading the way. He speaks His word, just like rain coming down from the sky to the earth. 

The writer of Isaiah chapter 55 understands this joy that comes out of suffering. If we look back to chapters 53 and 54, we see that they are full of themes of suffering, trials, and hardships. Isaiah 53 is the location for the “Suffering Servant” portraying Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. And yet, the writer explodes with joy and celebration when he comes to chapter 55. All of creation will join in with clapping and singing.

This stance or attitude of joy in the midst of suffering is possible for all believers, not because of our own strength, but because God will be the One to lead us into singing and rejoicing. “His ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:8). The writer reminds us in verse 11 that God Himself will accomplish His purpose here on earth. (Is. 55:11). God’s word will go forth and not return empty. Just like the image of the bursting light from a sunrise beaming over the whole earth, God will shower His blessings to everyone. God Himself will lead the way.

So, this coming year 2021, let us go forth with clapping and rejoicing, knowing that God will be the One to lead us. Even if we are still suffering, God’s word will come down from heaven and shine its light to all of creation, and He Himself will accomplish the good things in our lives. All we need to do is to remain faithful and obedient and to continue seeking our Lord, as the writer encourages everyone in verse 6: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6). Call upon God and allow Him to lead you in your life.

Sometimes, after we obey God and “clap with joy” to welcome the Light of the world, people forget who we are or what we have done. I think that is okay. We should remember that it is not about us. But it is about Jesus, the Light of the world who is the Life for all men and women. (John 1:4-5). The important thing is that others see Jesus in our lives, and that they in turn follow God and fulfill His purpose for their lives. All your friends will experience the “Peace on Earth” and they will be led forth by the peace of God. They may forget you, but they will always remember God’s goodness in their lives.

Let me end with a story of the lamplighter. In olden times, city streets were lined up with oil lamps set on poles by the side of the streets. These were the days before electricity. The lamplighter comes every day, at dusk, right before the sunset, and walks along the sides of the streets and lites up every lamp. He holds a long stick with a torch at the top end to ignite the street lamps.  Everyone sees the lamplighter and knows what he needs to do. But once the evening comes, and all the city street lights are lit, no one remembers the lamplighter. And yet, everyone is joyful for the light around their neighborhood. The city is alive and darkness cannot stop the light. The light has come.

Let me read to you John 1:9-13 (NLT).

The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

May you allow the Light of God to shine in the world through you. May you celebrate God’s light for everyone to see. May you become a “Guang for Jesus.” Amen!