Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christmas (04/25/05)
- TITLE: Christmas in the East
By Suzanne R
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It was Christmas Eve. Over the past month, in all my English classes, we had lit advent candles and learned carols. I had Australian guests and was glad to also take them to extra English classes for special Christmas lessons. It was all very exciting but I was tired and the driver’s rude comment didn’t help!
He had a point though. My Chinese friends consider it trendy to celebrate Christmas. Only the previous year, I’d attended a magnificent medley of carols performed by the provincial choir. Afterwards, we took photos together under a huge Christmas tree. We made our way along streets lined with inflatable Santa Clauses and flashing lights to a crowded ‘pleasure parlour’ where we’d reserved a smoky dance room. My friends danced, sang karaoke and partied all night! In the minds of many, that’s Christmas.
I valiantly explained to the taxi driver that what he sees isn’t actually ‘Christmas’. He remained unconvinced. Arriving home, we paid the cynic and hurried to my apartment. Christmas patchworks hung on the wall, strings of cards represented the love of family and friends, carols played softly, the tree’s lights blinked, presents were soon to be placed under it, and Mum’s Christmas cake mailed from Australia beckoned us. I wish the taxi driver could experience this!
All too soon, it was time to brave the streets again for the first of several Christmas Eve services. How exciting – snow! A white Christmas was something my Australian guests had dreamed of. We relished the gentle sensation of the fluffy flakes on our cheeks. Chatting happily, our breath forming ‘clouds’, we waited for a taxi … and waited. There was not a single vacant cab to be had. We gingerly made our way to the bus stop. Alas, the rest of the city’s population was on buses tonight too. This was a great way of getting very close to local people! Two kind people gave their seats to my older guests, and we were unavoidably separated as more people got on. Body pressed hard against body, everyone in party mood, it was warm and exciting … until it came time to alight. “Get off”, I yelled to no avail. “Waiguoren, xia che!”, I bellowed. Laughter rippled down as the message was conveyed and passengers manhandled my bemused friends off the bus!
At the church, we were greeted outside by a brass band playing carols. We were early, as I was involved in the ‘foreign choir’, but the church was already full. Wriggling between people, we made our way to the front where seats were reserved for those doing ‘items’. Finally, the lights went out, the music started, and the candle-carrying Chinese choir members entered. “Light has come into the darkness”, the pastor joyfully proclaimed. It wasn’t until our group was on stage that I fully appreciated the numbers there. Two thousand pairs of brown eyes looked up at us and huge crowds outside watched on a big screen.
I’d like to say that I shared the gospel in a significant way that evening. The extent of my involvement, however, was as a drawcard for some local friends. The honour of explaining the gospel fell to a wonderful old Chinese pastor who understands deeply what it means to give up everything for Christ. The message was powerful and extremely clear. I looked at the crowds. There was a friend I’d partied with last year. Nearby was the provincial choir director. Over there was a neighbour. Each ear clearly heard the story of God’s love. Each eye focused on the banner – ‘Jesus Christ is born’. Each heart surely sensed his love. Some souls tasted the sweetness of salvation. How I wished the taxi driver could experience this.
That taxi driver was right … and wrong. As China becomes more international, Christmas is increasingly popular. However, Christmas is not partying, trees, gifts, lights, friends or even family. Christmas is remembering the advent of our Lord. Christmas gives us reason to live, hope, endure and celebrate.
Joining the throngs carefully making our way down the snowy streets after church, we wished one another ‘Sheng dan kuai le’. In English, this means ‘Happiness for the holy birth’. Now that’s something worth celebrating!
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