A Famous Painting of Two Angels

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File:Sanzio, Raffaello - Putti (Madonna Sistina) - 1512-1513.jpg

Aren’t we all familiar with the painting of the two angels above? Two lovely babies are staring up to the skies, probably daydreaming and bored.

Those two cherubs can often be seen on murals, heavily marketed on t-shirts, postcards, stamps, even parodied by many.

Little that we know, that this painting is just a small part of a 265 cm × 196 cm oil painting. The title of the painting is Sistine Madonna, by the Italian artist, Raphael. The center of the painting is Infant Christ held by Mary. On the sides are Saint sixties and Saint Barbara, surrounded by dozens of obscured cherubs. All of them along with those two little angels are looking at Christ in the center.

File:RAFAEL - Madonna Sixtina (Gemäldegalerie Alter Meister, Dresde, 1513-14. Óleo sobre lienzo, 265 x 196 cm).jpg

The festivity of “christmas” has started to fill the world since a few weeks ago.

We’ve seen them in the manifestation of bright red decoration ornaments in the shopping malls.

Tickets for “christmas” concert are sold, featuring Beyonce, Enriqe Iglesias and Pitbull. In their ad, they said, “Feel the joy of Christmas”.

A high end restaurant sent me a mailer each week on December, inviting me to “savor the true spirit of Christmas”. And below the headline is a list of menus and wines at special price and a picture of DJ and a jazz band that will perform on 25 December.

On Facebook, a non-Christian friend even posted on her status, ”Even if you’re not a Christian, Christmas is always a good moment to celebrate by shopping.”

As a newbie in marketing communication, those ads are a reminder for me to be careful of how I represent the company I work for in our campaigns. As a Christian, the fact that the world celebrates “christmas” is very offending to me.

Christmas has been mistakenly commercialized, wrongfully made a tradition by non-Christians and even more by churches all over the world for so many time. Yes, I think churches have been abusing Christmas the worst by wearing lavish, meaningless decoration. Or by throwing a grand dinner party that serves costly food where the members of the congregation can check out each other’s dress and accessories. Or by having gift exchange ceremony lead by a big man with fake white beard dressed in red suits.

For me those kind of “christmas” is just like how people made those two cherubs in Raphael’s painting famous for being so cute, like two children day-dreaming. They have lost the center of the big picture, which is Christ!

All this time the world has been unknowingly celebrating a Christless “christmas”. And we Christians have forgotten to tell from the mountain the true miracle of Christmas. That is, that the Almighty God in heaven who reigns beyond time and space had interfered in history, incarnated as human in our time and space.

The Infinite limited Himself in flesh and blood. The Divine God had to live in the sinful world. The King of all kings was born in the poorest place to die in the most disgraceful way as the price of our sins.

It was not merry. It was not festive. There were no big sale. It was not loud. The biggest and most majestic concert was only watched by the shepherds. And it filled them with joy of hope, because the long awaited Savior had been born. Not because of the famous hip hop singer singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” that’s got nothing to do with Christmas.

Now as a member of the Body of Christ, do we dare to start breaking the chain of this traditional “christmas”?

Do we dare to celebrate Christmas as pure and simple as the manger where Jesus was laid in 2000 years ago?

Stop abusing Christmas. Let the world know Christmas for what it truly is.

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It’s Started With 1.. 2.. 3..

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Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of being a dancer. I used to read story books about ballet dancers and wished I could one day be one of them. But it remained a dream, since ballet was a luxury in my country at those times. Something my parents couldn’t afford.

One day my dad, knowing how much I loved to dance, came home, bringing a very special gift: a pair of white ballet shoes. They were not champagne-colored toe shoes as pictured in the books. But it was enough to make me feel like a real ballerina. Everyday after coming home from school, I put on the shoes and posed like the dancers in the story books I read. Time passed by and my ballet shoes ruined. Yet my thirst for dancing never deceased.

As I grew up, I also grew interest in Latin and ballroom dancing. Still, it was something rare to find in my neighborhood. Till one day around the end of 2008, a dance school was opening just 3 minute walking from my house. So I signed up for Salsa class (the only opening class for beginner at that time), and went to purchase my second pair of dance shoes. This time a black, strappy Latin dance shoes.

The first Salsa classes wasn’t really fun. I never forget how we were to practice the basic steps again and again, until we got to absorb the feel of the Latin beat. It felt a bit frustrating. Especially when our instructor brought his dance partner to display a full, professional Salsa performance. I felt it was waaaay… down the road before I achieve half her skill. But boy, was I wrong!

Only a couple of weeks after, our instructor told us that it was time to dance in couples. And to my surprise, what I thought to be boring and hard-to-chew was a profound principle I needed to grasp before I could REALLY dance Salsa.

I never forgot how amazed I was, that only by keeping the basic steps, I could do so many variations and movements I never learned or memorized before, just by following the lead of my partner. I soon learned and enjoyed the art of dancing: trying to read where your partner is leading you, and responding with the synchronized movement while displaying the beauty and the characteristic of the dance (there is a saying that in dancing, the man is the frame while the lady is the beautiful painting). And it won’t happen without mastering the basic steps.

By knowing the basic by heart, you can dance anytime, anywhere to any song with anyone. Even with some strangers on the street in Cuba! 😀

When the Waltz class was opened, I excitedly signed up. This time, the instructor is a graceful and lovely lady. She danced so beautifully. But class after class, she only taught us to memorize a series of choreography, without firming the basic steps and the essence of those beautiful movements. After each class, I get more and more thirsty of the profound dancing. I “danced” the Waltz but I never knew how to DANCE the Waltz. And so I quit.

As a youth worker at church, sometimes I get suggestions from teenagers, their parents or congregation to publish more fun, light, and practical articles for the teenager bulletin.

Several friends also often share their reluctance to listen to the doctrinal or expository sermons. They feel that in this busy and stressful world, they need a simple and practical solution to their problems in everyday life.

While I understand their thirst to live their life, and to solve their problems accordingly to Biblical principles, I can help but to see it as the “choreographed” life. They want to know what the Bible tell them to do without really understand why GOD wants them to do it.

Such practical teachings might help us to survive that particular problem and help to keep our faith through it. But when a bigger tribulation comes, our faith might get shaken again, because we don’t have a firm foundation of a deep and profound teaching of the Bible.

We often underestimate the ability of young people to absorb the hardcore teachings. We tend to feed them with hip and current issues just to keep them for a while. Once they go out to the world, without a strong grip, they will find that the teachings they heard are no longer relevant and greater trials will draw them apart from the church. Because what they were taught about was not the basic that nourishes their understanding of life. They don’t have the ability to improvise.

Only the true and faithful teaching of the Bible can keep us dancing gracefully with life. Just like the firm basic steps of a dance, it will keep us in the right rhythm till the end of the dance.

Oh, by the way, I’m currently learning the Waltz from the instructor who teaches me Salsa as well. As what he did with Salsa, he teaches the basics faithfully, starting with 1.. 2.. 3..

 

Coram Deo

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The world is recorded to be populated by nearly 7 billion people. Everyday babies are born and people die. Our existence in the world is limited by flesh and time. Life in this world is only a dot compared to eternity.

Yet I believe everyone is given a purpose, a quest to do in the journey of this worldly life. Thus, no one should ever take life for granted, only for the joy for oneself. Life should have impacts and inspire others. And the ultimate goal of it is to know and to glorify the Creator of life. Soli Deo gloria.

How do you make your existence in this world significant? How do you leave a legacy to the world that affects and mends other lives? Well, as for me, I find writing is one way to do it.

This blog is intended to record my reflections on things I encounter daily or popular topics, as I am struggling to live coram Deo – living in the presence of God. It is only a small start to a bigger project. But hopefully it will take people to walk the path I walk to find meanings in everyday-life events.

So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the honor and glory of God.”
– I Corinthians 10:31 –

“The big idea of the Christian life is coram Deo. Coram Deo captures the essence of the Christian life… It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance.
– R. C. Sproul –