[rb_dropcap]W[/rb_dropcap]e are back in Penang for my mum’s 85th birthday. Planning a “surprise” lunch. Wondering what to get her. It’s standard practice to give gifts to people on their birthdays, to bless them, to give them joy. This is especially important for the young. Back in Penang, I am reminded of the birthdays I used to have as a child. Mum and dad would organize birthday parties for me and I would get to invite my cousins and some close friends from school. I remember drawing up a list of things I would like to get for my birthday and gently hint to my parents and others that those were the presents I hoped to be surprised with on my big day.
Recently I went to a birthday party with a difference. It was a birthday where the one celebrating the birthday gave presents instead of receiving them. I am referring to the recent 40th anniversary of the Singapore Campus Crusade for Christ, celebrated on 6th October 2012. It was a special celebration for many reasons. They announced that they would have a new name, CRU, though their mission and passion would remain the same. And 40 years is a good time to look backward to see how God has birthed, sustained, and grown the movement, to remember the many lives the movement had touched in the four decades. And then there was the other surprise.
Kok Hiang, the National Director of Singapore Campus Crusade for Christ (Crusade), explained that his organization had always functioned on the basis of trusting God for their funding. They had always lived by faith. They felt convicted that on their anniversary they wanted to exercise faith on behalf of others. They had trusted God to provide for a special fund that would be given away on their birthday. They gave to 26 ministry organizations that shared their passion for evangelism and disciple-making. Graceworks was on that list and we are very grateful. On the list were also the Navigators (Navs) and the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES).
I can remember a time when Crusade, Navs and FES saw each other as competitors. We have come a long way, and not too soon. For way too long, groups that preached a gospel of reconciliation didn’t seem too friendly with each other. At most they operated with minimal cooperation. They didn’t seem to be investing in each other’s success. Instead, consciously or unconsciously each group wanted to prove that their mission and methods were superior. And those of us who were not particularly tied to any of the groups, would sigh and say that we wished people were won to the Lord through Crusade, discipled by the Navs, and taught by FES. Maybe that day has come.
A broken and fragmented world needs to see a gospel community that celebrates diversity but where the people love each other deeply and collaborate rather than compete. This has been happening more and more, at least here in Singapore. And the financial gift that Crusade gave to the other organizations was itself a gift — the gift of the revelation of a church of God which celebrates unity, diversity, and interdependence, all in the bond of love. And that is the gospel illustrated.
So, what a great idea, giving gifts instead of receiving gifts on your birthday. What a Christ idea.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2: 8–14 NIV)
Jesus’ birthday was a celebration of God’s greatest gift to humankind. On His birthday Jesus began a journey that would bless all of humankind. In doing what they did, Singapore Crusade showed their pedigree. Not that there is anything wrong to give people gifts on their birthdays. We decided to give mum an “ang pow” (cash gift). Thought we’d play it safe. What do you give a person who has all she needs on her 85th birthday? Hope she likes the lunch. But giving instead of receiving on one’s birthday. Now that’s an idea. Thank you Crusade friends.