“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly upended our normal routine and cast a deep shadow over our lives and livelihood. The pandemic has even resulted in total or partial lockdowns in many affected nations, with several of them battling to contain a third or even fourth wave of coronavirus infection. Many people have experienced physical and even emotional separation from their loved ones during this period of lockdowns, as movement control measures across borders (whether national borders or internal state borders) kicked in without warning and their loved ones who are on the other side of the restricted borders, are locked out and prevented from crossing over to meet their family members and relatives.
Separation is painful
I have colleagues from Malaysia and other ASEAN countries who were affected in the initial stages of the pandemic due to circuit breaker measures implemented in March. They did not return to their home country for fear of being locked down by their state government and not being allowed to come back to Singapore to work. Most of them are primary breadwinners sustaining their families and relatives back home. As such, they cannot afford not to continue working in Singapore, especially when they have witnessed several of their foreigner friends being sent home after losing their jobs due to the lockdown.
Whilst my colleagues are grateful that they still have jobs here in Singapore, they are nevertheless sad that they cannot return and meet their loved ones face-to-face. Some of them are parents with young children or infants. Even though social media platforms are doing a great job in allowing them to keep in touch with their loved ones, the emotional pain of physical separation over a prolonged period of several months is very trying on them and their loved ones back home. It does not help that they are hearing news of more waves of coronavirus infection and death tolls in their own countries.
Spiritual separation is deadly
The apostle Paul reminds us that spiritual separation from God came about as a result of our sins. He goes on to tell us that spiritual separation is deadly. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Because of our sins, we “were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). And there is no way we can escape from the bondage of sin, as we are no longer our own masters but slaves to sin and under the control of the evil one.
From separation to salvation
Today, as a church, we are witnessing the baptism and transfer of membership of our baptismal candidates. All of them have gone through our catechism classes over the past few months, culminating in a face-to-face interview by our Pastors and Elders recently. They have testified that, by the grace of God, they have come to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour after the Holy Spirit opened their hearts to see their sinful and helpless state and their need for salvation. They are thankful that they are no longer separated from the God who has loved them from the very beginning. They are also glad that they are now part of the spiritual family in Hermon and they can serve in one way or another. As a church, we rejoice that we can extend our right hand of fellowship to welcome them and to encourage them in their journey of faith.
As we celebrate Christmas this season, may we all be filled with gratitude and joy that Christ has come as our Redeemer, delivering us from bondage to sin and reconciling us to God as His redeemed people. May His redeeming grace shine through our lives this Christmas and always. Amen.
– Eld Elgin Chan