Bishop Rennis Ponniah LoveSingapore

Bishop Rennis Ponniah at PraySingapore in October 2018. Photo from LoveSingapore's Facebook page.

The birth of John the Baptist triggers a prophecy by his father, Zechariah.

In Luke 1:67-79, he declares the significance of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:

… the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:73-75 ESV)

We are delivered from fear and darkness that we might live in holiness and righteousness.

And in the birth of Jesus Christ, Zechariah sees the full flowering of a new heaven and a new earth:

… because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79 ESV)

Zechariah is thinking ahead. He can see this being fulfilled: The resurrection, ascension and return of the Lord.

It’s a cloudless dawn. 

The resurrection, ascension and return of the Lord brings a cloudless dawn. 

For me, this image is very real, because two weeks ago, my father passed to glory at the ripe age of 93.

I stood together with my two brothers and my mother next to the coffin. Later at Choa Chu Kang, we committed his body – earth to earth, dust to dust (Genesis 3:19), ashes to ashes.

My father was a teacher and he was a very committed educationist. He taught English at Chung Cheng High School.

He used film and songs to teach. One of the songs he used to help his students know that the English language has beauty was the song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Besides helping them have a visual image, my father could share that there is life beyond death.

About a month ago, my youngest brother asked him: “Dad, why don’t you sing one of your favourite songs?” And he sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Looking back, we realised – he was ready.

He had a very steady faith. His favourite song was the hymn God Will Take Care of You.

I would say that is what he imparted to us – the knowledge of a God who created us, gave His Son to us, and who can be trusted.

Even when things went wrong, or there was some tragedy in the family, he had a steadiness about him because he had the inner eye of faith. I think that’s what he left with us, that God can be trusted.

Whatever you need, take it to God in prayer, and trust Him on how it will work out. 

The other value he left behind was practical kindness.

My mum told us that he made sure she had a handkerchief in her handbag and coins for the tuckshop – she was also a teacher. Today these are some of the things she remembers about his daily acts of kindness.

We are grieving, but not without hope and not without the sunrise.

The way my brothers and I treat people is very much a result of how he taught us to treat people and how to respect all strata of society.

He was blessed with 10 grandchildren: Five boys and five girls. And he saw each of them as God’s blessings – nothing was too trivial for him.

My father died of heart failure in his sleep. So that’s a very peaceful way to go.

We are grieving, but not without hope and not without the sunrise. You know, that’s very real for me. 

As Christians, we say we believe in the resurrection of the dead. One can preach it, one can profess it.

But when it’s your own loved one, what do you believe? What do you really believe about what Jesus has done?

My father’s death is painful. It’s a loss. There is a gaping hole.

He was a great encourager, affirming you, showering you with kindness and always applauding the little that you do, commending it.

We will miss him. But I’ve seen the sunrise. I’ve seen us in glory, I’ve seen us in resurrected bodies when Jesus returns. It’s as good as done with the birth of Jesus.

This excerpt is based on Bishop Rennis Ponniah’s message at a Celebration of Hope gathering for pastors and marketplace leaders on January 22, 2019.

About the author

Bishop Rennis Ponniah

The Right Reverend Rennis Ponniah is the ninth Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He was ordained as a priest in 1991 and was the Vicar of St John’s-St Margaret’s Church from July 1993 to September 2012. In 2005, he was appointed as Assistant Bishop. Bishop Ponniah was also previously the president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) from 2016-2018.