Sunday, December 9, 2018

6 Observations from Kuching Christmas Parade 2018 (and Why You Should Come Next Year)


Trinity Methodist Church (TMC) Kuching is a missional church. I had attended TMC for about 2 years and then moved to the local Anglican Church. I was involved in TMC Mission Ministry for one year as part of the committees. I’ve witnessed the church genuine passion for Christ and desire for others to know Him as Lord and Saviour. TMC Mission is “Being and Making Disciple for Christ” and the leaders lead by Rev Dr. Lau Hui Ming (a very humble man) make sure that their members – the church – grasp the vision and mission into their lives. They put their money (and prayer) where their mouth is. The church grows because the church go. So, no wonder TMC has been organizing Kuching Christmas Parade since 2007 because it aligns with their mission statement.

This year, the theme is Good News of Great Joy. It was expected more than 7,000 participants prior to the event, but it turned out to be more than 10,000 Christians from almost all the main churches in Kuching on an actual day. There were children and adults, church leaders and elders, youths and students, uniformed bands and decorated cars and Christmas trees. The 4-5km parade started from MBKS Jubilees ground to Kuching waterfront and back to the Jubilees ground. Malay Mail (8th Dec 2019) online news reported that the participating churches were the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Methodist Church SCAC, Methodist Church SIAC, BEM (SIB) Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Salvation Army, Sarawak Baptist Church, Blessed Church, Sarawak Grace Assembly Kuching, Hope Church Kuching, Calvary Family Church, Good News Fellowship, City Harvest Church, and Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES). I joined under the banner of FES, a student ministry, which consisted of students from local campuses and universities such as UiTM, UNIMAS, TCS, SIDMA/UNITAR, I-System, etc. To use Nicholas Spark’s classic-romance novel, the parade was “a walk to remember.”

The picture was taken from Herald Malaysia (http://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/some-10000-christians-take-part-in-kuching-christmas-parade/33776/1)

There are Six (6) Things that I observed during the parade that I want to share with you here:

#1 It Didn’t Rain. 2 hours before the parade, the weather was cloudy. When I took a picture at 4.04pm, I thought it was going to rain and the event will be canceled. But the people who were practicing that day seem to be ignoring the weather and proceed with the programme as if nothing bad going to happen. Either they were ignored or they have faith in God for good weather (or both), what was sure was that people were praying all day long. I was told that a group of intercessory prayer was praying for the event since morning until the end of the parade [To the point of contrast, anti-ICERD rally at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, ends early today due to rain. Coincident?].

#2 There Was No Wind. I noticed during praise and worship and prayers when most people bowed down and pray, I looked up and puzzled by the strangeness of the weather. The tree leaves don’t move at all. No wind. So how come the cloudy whether suddenly become clear? Strange. Usually, if the weather is cloudy and there is no wind, then most probably (90%) it’s going to rain. But during the parade, there is no rain at all, only drizzle after that. Miracle.

#3 The Most Smiling Faces of the Year. Pastor Nicholas Ningkau of the Sarawak Grace Assembly Church of Kuching said to the Malay Mail reporter, “When Christians take part in the parade, it has always been peaceful as we sing Christmas songs.” Imagine about 10,000 participants filled with Christian’s joy of celebrating the birth of the Saviour, met with about 5,000 plus excited people who stand sidewalk to witness the parade (including those in the cars), there was no doubt about the joy that we experienced together. I’ve never seen the most smiling faces in Malaysia any other month of the year except on Christmas (probably I'm biased).

#4 A Cloud of Witnesses. Cloudy weather? No more. A cloud of witnesses? Yes! Everyone knows that there are lots of Christian denominations in Sarawak. So much that even some Christians are confused. Thus, the Christmas parade is one of the biggest opportunity for us to show that although we are different – we are one. Also, Christmas parade is the largest gathering of Christians in Kuching (on the same day, there was also Christmas parade in Miri and Bintulu). Not only had we witnessed churches coming together as one body of Christ, but we also represent Christians from multi-ethnic and racial backgrounds. This reminds me of Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:21, “that all of them may be one” so that “the world may believe that [the Father] has sent me.”

#5 Kids, Kids, Kids. One of the best parts in Christmas parade is the kid's joyful heart. If you joined the parade you’ll know what I mean. If not, I wish you join next year. For the sake of these kids, join the parade! They love to see us. They enjoy joyful celebration. They expect gifts from us. Even if some of the kids might not get any presents or candies, your smile, handshake, and hi-five are enough for them (although there were kids who solely came with one overarching purpose – to collect gifts only). If we can instill in the children’s mind that Christmas is a season of celebration, giving and sharing, then we already teach them the most important values in life.

#6 Sarawak Is Like No Other. You heard this so much that it might sound like a cliché but it’s true. Sarawak is a place where people of various races are (almost totally) free to practice their culture, tradition, and religion without hindrance. “For Sarawakians,” said Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, “diversity is beauty and strength, and not division.” I agree! During the parade, a group of Malay Muslim wishes us “Merry Christmas!” and we did not end up with religious debate. Instead, we greeted one another in perfect harmony and peace-loving humanity. A group of Buddhist society (I assumed because they were wearing the same uniform) joined the parade and passed along biscuits for us to give to others. It wasn’t much but it shows that we all in this together. Jason Mraz puts it beautifully: “The question is why, why are we here? To say our hello's and goodbye's and then disappear; This beautiful life, what is it for? To learn how to master peace or master war… Love is still the answer.” And Sarawak is like no other (it rhyme).

Next Year Christmas Parade. Don’t Miss it. Join.
You Will Be Blessed and Bringing Blessing to Others. This is Christmas.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

P.s: I don't like big events. Crowd drains my energy, personal time empowered me. But Christmas Parade is different. It is churches coming together. It is an open invitation. It is a Church with no walls! Worship in buildings is comfortable, but worship in the open space is freedom. Christ's birth was announced to sinners, His death was a public execution, He rose again and taken up to heaven... all in public. This is not a secret society or buildings religion... this is Christianity, followers of the living Christ!

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