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The carols have long quietened down. Even the CNY feasting has come to an end. It’s back to our routines. There’s something about festivities that sings to the heart. But personally, my favourite is still Christmas (just another 10 months away).

Still, have you noticed the inevitable evidence of a Christmas just past in the piles of torn gift wrappers, paper bags and shredded ribbons? Those lovely wrappings that once graced every gift stuffed into dustbins or at best folded among expired newspapers for the “paper lama” collectors.

Everyone appreciates a thoughtfully wrapped gift. One cannot deny that receiving a gift done up beautifully, complete with ribbons and card, serves to arouse delightful anticipation for the gift that lies within. But … no matter how lovely or expensive the wrappings may be, no one will just stop short at admiring them externally. For what truly matters is the gift that lies within. The cleverly tied ribbons must be unraveled, the beautiful wrappers or bags torn apart for the recipient to access the actual gift. The temporal exterior, no matter how attractive, must make way for the interior substance.

This reminds me of the need to carefully examine our lives. It is so easy for us to wrap ourselves under layers of deceptive lovely Christian behaviors that may fool others and even ourselves (!) we are good righteous Christians especially among the church community. What will God find when He strips us of these external layers and lay our hearts bare before Him?

In 1 Sam 16:7 (NIV) - But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Will He find our hearts tender and hungry for Him and His purposes or will it lay bare our silent, secret and proud agendas? Will we be made finally transparent to all that we attend church under obligation, or even serve in ministries driven by our own selfish purposes? My prayer is for Him to find a sincere desire to worship Him in spirit and truth. I believe He gladly accepts even our smallest – but earnest - attempts to bring Him glory as Christ’s disciples, when we offer up our lives wholeheartedly to Him as living sacrifices.

1 Chronicles 28:9 (NIV) emphasises "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with a wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart, and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek Him, He will be found of you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever”.

Our Omniscient, all-knowing God is able and will surely shred our feeble exteriors to expose our hearts and true intentions when we stand before Him on Judgement Day. Will we rejoice to hear from Him the words promised in Matt 25:21 (ESV) “… Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master”. Or will it be the final dreaded Matt 7:21-23 where He denies us?

Just like that present, our temporal exterior, no matter how attractive, shall ultimately make way for our interior substance.

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