Christmas is only 4 days away.
It seems like just yesterday I got on that plane in San Diego. As I sit listening to Chinese Christmas music, the weather about 68 degrees outside with a clear evening sky, I cannot help but dream of a white Christmas. But tropical trees and a classic movie will have to suffice this year, as I spend my fist Christmas away from home, my first Christmas in China.
As this holiday has approached, I have more than ever before met with the reminder that Christmas is not about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, sleigh rides, or presents. Maybe that is because it's hardly celebrated in China, or because the few stores here with decorations have everything BUT a manger scene. Or perhaps it is because I am away from home for the holidays. Or maybe in living here, amongst this culture, I have started to see just how much they are truly missing this Christmas, especially as I get to know them better. My roommate said her parents wouldn't even know what day Christmas was if someone didn't tell them. As I plan my lessons for school leading up to Christmas, the kids making cards to send to Lafayette in New York and other donors, I cannot help but be saddened that my teaching of this holiday is limited. New words like Santa Claus, Christmas tree, card, and presents are asked of me daily, but I want so much more to tell of the birth of a King. A King who came for each and everyone of their beautiful faces 2,000 years ago with a free gift. I am humbled, sobered, and reminded this Christmas that while lights are pretty, presents are fun, and Christmas trees sure make a lonely home cozy (I love mine!), the birth that happened that night is the reason I am in China, the reason I have hope, and the reason that I live.
In my musings about this season, I have been given tremendous peace; that unexplainable, inner peace that only comes from Above. It began a few weeks ago. First, something slightly magical began to happen at school – just barely noticeable, easily overlooked. A few kids who usually don't pay attention, don't seem to care, don't try, started raising their hands, answering questions, and trying. Kids who never came into my office nor said much of a hello outside of class, started to peek in curiously, and grab my hands playfully between classes. There is one little boy who comes in before his class to help me carry my stuff. What change has happened? Is it Christmas? Is it coincidental? Is it them finally accepting me? I don't know, but it has begun my Christmas season with a bang.
Secondly, I was visited by angels this past week in the form of a mysterious box from America. I assumed it was from my parents or boyfriend, a surprise Christmas gift they didn't tell me about. But I opened it to find a dozen beautiful wrapped, bowed and ribboned goodies and surprises sent with love from my small group at the church I attended my last semester of college. I was speechless, shocked, and blown away. This group of about 15 people of all ages and walks of life, many of which do not know me too well, decided to put together a surprise package for me filled with love, encouragement, and support. I have never received so unexpected of a gift nor felt so loved by brothers and sisters. I now have presents under my tree filled with promises from the Boss that He provides, He listens, He cares, and that I truly am never alone. Thank you, Grace family, for blessing me beyond words and truly showing me what the Body looks like. I cannot thank you enough and praise and thank the Father for you all!
I am happy here in China. The peace that has descended these past few weeks is something I have been praying for (and perhaps all you have been too - thank you!) I am determined to make this a magical and memorable Christmas. Though we have school on Christmas day, we have Friday through Sunday off. We also have the school's Christmas program the night of the 25th where the kids will dance, sing, and share what they are learning with their families. I cannot wait! The have been practicing for the past month. Jimmy and I are going to cook a holiday meal Friday night and invite several people over to join us. While they might have to bring their own plate (what can I say? we live simply...), the meat might be chicken again (or even Mexican!), it will be a time of fellowship and bringing people together, from all walks of life here in China. I am determined to love someone that day and share with them the love of my Best Friend, however I can. If that means sitting on the floor, borrowing plates, mock turkey, and people who barely speak English, I will take it. I will take it all because this is where I have been placed, and these are the people I have been called to love, right now.
Wishing you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas with your families and loved ones. We, your brothers and sisters around the globe, are thinking of you here across the seas. May the true Reason for the Season be close to your heart now and always.
I am at peace. Truly.