An unusual Christmas homily for our time


(The singer above is Majida El Roumi Baradhy, a Lebanese soprano and UN Goodwill Ambassador.)

A good friend of mine shared with me his Christmas homily. I thought it was too good to keep to myself; so I am sharing it with you – though he prefers to remain anonymous. The homily touches on how the “religious observance” vs commercialisation of Christmas contestation has masked the radical message of Christianity against the “domination systems” of our world.

Paul Harvey first aired this modern day parable of the Christmas story in 1965:

The Man and the Birds

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you to was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in.

So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realised that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety, warmth…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

(The man grasped the reason Jesus was born)

I think the challenge for us is not really in the believing and the understanding of the incarnation but in the understanding (with reference to the parable above) od:

i) what being out in the cold is,
ii) the “way to the safe warm barn”, and
iii) what the “safe warm barn” really means to us.

The New Testament scholar, theologian and author Marcus Borg noted:

“For many centuries – now almost a thousand years – the most common forms of Christianity have emphasised that Jesus’s primary significance is that he died to pay for our sins. This notion affects the meaning of Christmas: Christmas is the birth of the one who will save us from our sins so that we can go to heaven. It results in a radical domestication and individualisation of the story of Jesus and Christmas.”

And therefore, religiously and traditionally, it has been understood that Jesus came to redeem sinners (being in the cold), he came so that we would be saved and go to heaven (the warm and safe barn). And the way to that barn was to follow him in everything.

But this has been interpreted as following religious practices (i.e. preoccupation with devotions, rites and rituals, the liturgy that smacks of “performance and drama” of the liturgy, paraphernalia, etc.…you know what I mean), which borders on religiosity. A genuine introspection into how the season of Advent was celebrated perhaps can give us some indication of where we are in our perception of Christmas.

Very often the vilification of the commercialisation of Christmas has perhaps rendered some degree of impunity to some of our “religious practices” even though these practices do not help us experience the true spirit of Christmas. But it must be noted that neither the commercialisation of Christmas nor the religiosity of Christmas has diminished the good cultural practices of Christmas.

Some of these practices are recent innovations, e.g. the first commercially produced Christmas cards appeared in 1873. So too the buying of Christmas gifts is a product of the late 1800s and took a  while to become widespread. The practice of many of these customs must be commended.

To state the obvious, Christmas has rich cultural meanings. It is the most widely celebrated holiday in the world, even by many who are not Christian. At its best, its cultural meanings are about generosity, gift-giving, goodwill, and gatherings with family and friends.

What is the message and meaning of Christmas? What is the spirit or the spirituality of Christmas? It can include the above cultural practices but it adds quite a different emphasis.

According the Marcus Borg, Christmas matters for Christians because Jesus matters for Christians. And what was Jesus about? His message, his passion, was about the coming of the kingdom of God and the birth of a world of justice and peace. Of course, the kingdom of God is also about our individual transformation through loving the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and strength and to love one another. It is about our transformation and the transformation of the world.

The good news of Christmas is that He became like us so that we can be like Him, think like Him, see like Him, feel like Him, speak like Him… live like Him knowing that we reside in His heart and that we carry in us his divine spark. It is also an affirmation of the life of transformation we are already living and an assurance of his grace and strength to carry on in hope.

And I think – as in the parable – this is what it means to be saved from the cold (from indifference, injustice and a lack of peace) and make our way (transformation of self) to the warm safe barn (a transformed world in the here and now).

Jesus is light in the darkness, the path of liberation, the way of return, the Word of God and Spirit of God embodied in a human life. In him we see God’s passion for a different kind of world here below, here and now. That’s what his coming and Christmas are about.


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tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Penang funicular train breaks down, stranding hundreds GEORGE TOWN: Hundreds of frustrated tourists HAD TO TRUDGE DOWN Penang Hill here yesterday after the Penang Funicular Train broke down. Tourist Annabila Jamal, 56, from Johor, said she and her family of eight were forced to wait for four hours before finally being able to walk down. “What was supposed to be a pleasant trip up the hill turned into a nightmare. “The train broke down suddenly and it took several hours to repair. There were so many people that we had to wait for hours, and when we finally got… Read more »


You only complain here and what pity when you personally have 4wd for belum valley? You can offer your 4wd as you offer me a ride to belum valley to ferry trapped visitors.

gk ong

We have witnessed ‘domination systems’ affected Aunty Anne’s and McDonald’s. Anyway these outlets have lost a customer in me.


Do not subject your kids to commercialism (and discrimination), so never hold their birthday party at Ronald’s restaurant.

Happy 2017

It’s their right to choose who they want to please so Just boycott McDonald let them cater to their Muslim customers.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

McDonald prefers to make its cuisine halal as well as its premises (so the halal birthday cake ruling).
But is there such a thing as halal place?
Which in correctness has to be totally reserved & air-tight for Muslims only.
But what about drop by flies which touch non-halal food from outside?

Either McDonald bakes its own brand of halal cakes or commissions from outside halal cake makers.

Its a Catch 22 – To go fully halal (food, premise, air) & losing some loyal customers or
use some non-halal common sense.

gk ong

McDonald’s Malaysia lost many Muslim customers over the previous allegation that its parent company in US is linked to Jewish organization. So this overzealousness in halal is a desperate attempt to appeal more to its muslim customers as it assumes that it would not impact the non-Muslims. Anyway such fastfood with carbonated drinks are not healthy choice, better for us to support local food that is priced more economically. Good time to make 2017 resolution to avoid junk fast food like McDonald’s unhappy meal.

Sora Zhen

For Chinese New Year, prosperity is in the form of Bak Kwa, not McD’s burger.

Anyway, McDonald’s in Thailand serves pork burger.

Tay SL

McDonald’s sold its Malaysia and Singapore 20-year franchise license for $400 million to a Saudi conglomerate Reza Investment Company in December 2016.

So it is now Islamic ‘MatDanut’ that we are getting?
We may have to go elsewhere for the real deal?
The Ronald McDonald figurine is no longer on display at the Malaysian outlets, to avoid hero idolising by Muslim kids consuming Happy Meal?

Tay SL

Kong Bak Pau (Braised Pork Buns) – 扣肉包

Kong Bak Pau (aka 扣肉包) would be the closest version of a burger in Chinese cuisine, a thick slice of braised pork belly braised in soy sauce and spice sandwiched with fresh coriander between a steam leaf bun.

Tay SL

The Centre for A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) co-president Gan Ping Sieu pointed out that Jakim should not penalise halal-certified eateries that allow diners who bring in non-halal certified food into their premises. He added that Jakim’s halal certification applies only to food served in F&B outlets. “There is no such thing as halal or non-halal premises. While eateries have the right to ban patrons from bringing in outside food, the decision should be based on commercial considerations and not whether the food is halal-certified or not. In this respect, Jakim should not overstep its boundary by accrediting “premises” instead of… Read more »

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

This religious uprightness has brought about many Muslims (including my close Muslim friends & colleagues) not to have a cuppa of Kopi-O or meal with non-Muslims in kopitiams, a place deemed / or sanctioned of ‘non-halal contamination’. The last time I truly enjoyed lunching with my Muslim colleague who loved to croon about his Cik Puteh while in a ‘Muhibah’ kopitiam in Church Street was 1981. Those were the days of open mindedness & tolerance Ala P. Ramlee. Now? If I were to ask my Muslim friends out for a Kopi-O lepak, it has to be a mamak restaurant. No… Read more »


Mamak restaurants profited from this.
So Mamak is 1Malaysia?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

You can count their mamak numbers (majority) @ Komtar Friday protests.
In doubt, just ask LGE.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Penang low-cost flat dwellers to finally get strata titles GEORGE TOWN, Dec 30 ― It has been a decades-long wait, but Penang residents who bought their low-cost flats, some in the 1960s, will be relieved to know they will receive their property strata titles soon. State housing development committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said a total six low cost housing projects in the state consisting of 3,130 units were not issued strata titles previously despite these projects being completed many years ago, the oldest being the Mak Mandin project that was completed in 1969. Strata titles are property titles… Read more »


Muslim choir singing Christmas songs?


Same God, just different paths?


Please Help ( Out of Topic )

rajraman. I want this kid to see another days ,weeks ,months and many years of her life journey as common people’s like others.

Thank you.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

BR1M is a bribe, Azmin agrees with Dr M When $ocial aid$ to qualified citizens are given by any government, it is not to be politicised. Not even to be argued in any given so-called ‘politician-concocted context’ (of what?). More so, given the economic & financial hardship faced by many today. Those politicians can argued against financial aids based on any of their ‘concocted context’ BUT they fail to see the timely relief which can help those in need, not matter how small the amount. The BR1M amount can be ‘finished’ in 2 days as argued by Azmin is… Read more »

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

‘If BR1M is bribery, then what about Selangor’s free water?’


Free water is for all rich and poor. You complain because you did not get free water or BR1M??


you cant see the difference? one gives when coffer in deficiet and the other in surplus. you pay bonus when you are pokkai??

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Your same mind game regardless of Rakyat’s suffering.
God forbids such political use of pawns for their own agenda.
So, the phrase political traders are so near the truth!
Go back to pasar malam to trade your political mind games till GE14!


Who play pasar Malam mind? Selangor and pg budgets are running at surplus. So you want state Gomen to continue to accumulate savings? But federal is operating at losses even can’t give 50m to primary schools when it is budgeted and yet can give BR1M? Go and enjoy your shopping in air cond super and hypermarket with ample of carpark for your 4wd built by developers.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Go on twisting! And try harder still!

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

A green way to explore the island
Go to:
Note: you need to download linkbike app to use bike sharing. Cashless payment, no coupon payment.


You can cycle safely, but the problem is those reckless drivers of big vehicles have no respect for cyclists, claiming exclusive right of way with their big cars. So please be careful and wear a helmet for protection.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Actually, those reckless drivers are mostly MyVis & small vehicle young drivers as they can ‘squeeze’ thro the traffic (mostly on the left side) which for the average in-lane drivers are caught by surprise from these left side overtakers. In such instance, a sudden left turn to overtake by these MyVis surely cannot see the blind spots of cyclists just ahead of them on the left lane. The other reckless ones are those motorbike riders who like these MyVis have no patience to follow the traffic pace but to overtake on the left, cut across the middle & even overtake… Read more »

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

The only way for safe bicycle riding is to provide dedicated bicycle lanes along highway like Tanjung Tokong. In the inner city of George Town, some back lanes can be cleaned up for cyclists to use, narrow lanes dedicated for bicycles & motorbikes (no cars). A lot of these backlanes & narrow lanes are actually short cuts if one knows the road grids.

Happy 2017

Ah Jib Kor and son find it safer to cycle in Australia on 2017 New Year’s holiday:


Tax payers sponsored MO1 holiday trip down under?


china very advance. bike rental in major cities. pay by smartphones and company can track easy

Niao Niao

some will always remember George Michael’s Last Christmas, and below his interpretation of Christmas which my rhyme with many not sure Anil in tune as well ?

David Loman

The younger generation may relate more to Ariana Grande’s Last Christmas:

Niao Niao

Penang Music Festival 2017 can get Majida El Roumi Baradhy to perform ?

“Music can speak out louder than words. I will use my music and my voice to speak out on behalf of the needy and undernourished everywhere.”
— Majida El Roumi

Ho Say Leow

As we are ushering 2017, I sense that Penang-lang or Commoners at large that fear island landscape succumbing to Cosmo-commercial-development should now focus and band together with strategies to balance vintage n modernity (Ying n Yang?)

propose monthly gathering in round table to work out strategies. Why not for auspicious start to meet on 2 Jan 2017 at Ah Soon Not Har Mee (prawn noodle shop) at heritage Carnavoun Street? Ah Soon can give ample liao (ingredients) and kopi o kau the participants can syiok syiok enjoy!

Have a wonderful and great eventful 2017.

Ho Say Leow

Since 1968, Ah Soon Kor Har Mee a vintage meals hopefully not undergoing Cosmo-franchise like Chendol at malls with cosmopolutting pricing!

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

The inevitable (Pg street hawker food price hikes) which was heatedly commented in since 2011 has come true the past few years. Added the commercialisation of heritage properties (no thanks to some SingLanders), some of which previously housed old world charm kopitiams, the inevitable hike of rentals has ‘forced out’ small timers some of whom were famous ori-maestros of heavenly hawker cuisine. Except for that famous Lebuh Keng Kwee Teochew Chendol run by enterprising & farsighted Ori-Maestro Tan, many ori-maestros have no choice but to quit or bite the toes & pay higher rentals, which translates into more expensive… Read more »

Ho Say Leow

Charity organisation daily offer free meals for aged and abandoned seniors (children who likely unwilling to be further $burden by my own parents) at the space outside GuanYin Temple Pitt St.
Yesterday noon the free meals were nasi lemak bungkus with 1 bottle mineral water.

Ho Say Leow

The kopitiam next to Keng kwee lane ori-Tan chendol actually still owned by Hong Kong folks since long long ago. The kopitiam just undergone minor renovation with fresh coat of paint while the stalls are now better aligned.
Someone can inform us if they now charge more than 40sen per head for not ordering in house drinks?????


Barang Naik because of low value of RM. Blame Trump or Najib? Luckily EPF can safeguard your money by dumping Felda share, which has dropped from RM5.5 at IPO to just RM1.55 now!

David Loman

Anil has talked about how FGV share price plummeting 2 years ago. Seems like nothing has changed and the Felda settlers are not concerned?


The BN government endorsed FGV’s purchase of Eagle High at inflated price.


NST report: A total of 95,683 Felda settlers all over the country will receive a Settlers Productivity Incentive Bonus totalling RM66.7 million early next month. Its chairman Isa Abdul Samad said, depending on each settler’s productivity, they will receive a bonus of between RM300 and RM800 by the second week of Jan.

[Others] in Malaysia can only look with envy. So much for 1Malaysia.

Hong Da Ming

Felda is taking on debt in order to afford the RM66.7 million in bonus it has promised to its settlers, claims PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli.

The Pandan MP said this was because Felda and its subsidiaries had recorded an operational loss of RM1.4 billion in 2014, and are likely to have performed just as badly in 2015 and 2016.

Huang Lei

Christmas is over and now most Chinese are very concerned that the new school year and the Chinese New Year expenditure will burn a big hole in their pockets as price has hiked in almost everything no thanks to the falling Ringgit value. If everyone is saving for rainy days, how to stimulate the economy with more consumption in 2017?

David Loman

Meanwhile The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is concerned with the spending habit of some subscribers that they run out of their savings too soon after their retirement – many subscribers ran out of their EPF savings within three or five years after their retirement although the life span for Malaysians had increased to 75 years.


Tough year ahead. Be prudent with your spending.
Some could hope for more BN goodies ahead of GE14 next year?


I start growing my own vegetables and papaya tree at home to cut expenses.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

You may even grow your food indoor, if you have spare money for setups.
Esp. for those living in high rise.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Tis A Christmas Gift for Penangites:
Thumbs up for bike sharing
I have not cycled since 1981 (35 yrs!) after selling off my Raleigh Cobra racer.
But I will try this bike sharing to see how it will help in my mobility as a street photographer.

Ho Say Leow

Your Raleigh Cobra a vintage, and can be offered to Prangin Mall basement Past Penang exhibits now happening there.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Raleigh Cobra sold off in 1981 for a measly Rm200+ Original retail price was Rm450 & made in England, bought from Chin Air Bicycle Shop, Carnarvon Street. Black alloy frame & wheels + Campagnolo Gear Shifter + Brooks Saddle > easy to lift with just 2 fingers. But fragile on ‘invisible’ potholes. In the 70s, I was among a few Penang Chinese species riders (not more than 5) riding street racers, majority of whom were Malays. Mountain bikes were no existent then, except for BMX bikes which were for kids. Saturday morning speed rides from Fort Cornwallis to Teluk Bahang… Read more »

Ho Say Leow

Anil n Vintage members should go to Old Penang Charms exhibit at basement Prangin Mall. Many past photos to rekindle the spirits of the past.
Btw, someone should offer 70s “Chopper” bike so that the present MacCondoKids can appreciate how the past havoc kids roaming the streets of neighborhoods during the era when 4WD or Proton not the vocabulary.
Back to future Penang MiniMovie may feature Cobra Chendol vs Chopper ice kacang if you are creative enough for that vision.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

4WD already in Malaya (before) Independence Day – the British Land Rovers (the Defenders were not born yet). These were mostly owned by the Polis Field Force, FRU, Army & private individuals in Cameron Highlands estates / Fraser Hills. It’s very rare to see these vehicles daily except during emergencies like curfews, Indonesia–Malaysia Confrontation (1963-1966) & riots control. Even very rare to see Polis Land Rover transporting dead bodies to GH as there were fewer crimes & less road accidents during the 50s -70s. Many of these older Landis (Land Rover nick name) are still in use esp. in Cameron… Read more »

gk ong

Cannot blame commercialization if too much emphasis is on practices and rituals, and not on the core values. This is happening in all faiths and religions in modern times.

Ho Say Leow
Awang Selamat Ori

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Mr. Anil.

Rebecca Wilkinson

Merry Christmas Anil! Joy, health & happiness!

Renji Sathiah

True this…

Tan may ling

So what happened to the birds?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

It’s a time to reflect ourselves as a species of humanity with mental & emotional quotations. Are we any better than the kampung era in the chase of more money, more wealth & better bin-chui? This is a case worth examining of present work culture which places profit-maximisation at the expense of employees & possible danger to customers: Johor bus crash: Driver only had three hours rest We may argue till the cows come home that our Ringgit is falling in value, business is competitive or the labor market is tight, but it is not sensible reason enough to… Read more »

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Merry Christmas to Anil & family, Penang Forum, Aliran, all readers, commenters, Cosmo-Frenzied Niao Kong & CAT Team & trollers / cyber troopers!
May Cleaner, Greener Penang be resurrected as “bikin serupa cakap” like a daily Green Commandment in our hearts & not performed as publicity stunts @ launching of projects & islands.

Cheers Kopi-O Kau Kau Merry Christmas!

gk ong

“It is a time to reflect on the values espoused by Christianity and our other great religions – of mutual respect, tolerance for one another, and helping those less fortunate.

“These are the same values that bind us, in this diverse and vibrant land of ours, together.”

These were the words of Najib Abdul Razak in his Christmas message to Malaysians.

gk ong

Do They Know It’s Christmas IT’S Christmas time – there’s no need to be afraid At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time But say a prayer for the other ones At Christmas time It’s hard but when you’re having fun There’s a world outside your window And it’s a world of dread and fear Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears And the Christmas bells that ring there Are the… Read more »

David Loman

“The Living Years” by The London Hospices Choir and Paul Carrack

This wonderful Christmas single is in aid of London Hospices, by a specially created choir of 300 patients, staff and volunteers of all ages from 17 hospices across London. Together with Paul Carrack, the song’s original lead singer with Mike And The Mechanics, on lead vocals, they are releasing a unique 2016 version of The Living Years.

The aim of the single release is to raise awareness and funds for the hospices, spreading an important message at Christmas – to make every living moment count.

Patrick Charles

Merry Christmad Anil