Remembering Christmases Past

I still remember my first Christmas in Japan.  I was cold, I was frustrated in the language, or should I say “lack” of language.  I was missing my family and generally dreading celebrating such an important event in a country that didn’t even recognize it.
Then one day I passed by Hazel Watson’s office door when for some reason we were visiting the mission headquarters in Tokyo.
Les and Hazel had been in Japan forever, or at least that’s what I thought.  I knew she had FIVE master’s degrees, because that’s what she liked to do on her furloughs. They’d been working in Japan for over 25 years, and been on five, one-year furloughs during that time; thus five degrees. She thought learning was fun, and was simply energized by the studies. There didn’t seem to be anything this woman wasn’t game to try!
She called out a cheery hello and invited me in. We exchanged greetings, she asked the typical questions like “How are you settling in,” etc.  Then I asked with a slight quaver in my voice, “How will you be spending your Christmas this year?”  I knew her children were grown and back in the States so I figured it would be a hard time for her.
“Oh, we’ll be at church from dawn till after dark,” she sighed.  I almost collapsed into the chair and reached for my tissues because I pretty much thought we were both going to need them.  I couldn’t think of anything more torturous than being with ‘those’ people all day on this, possibly one of the more emotive days of the year!
Then she continued as she popped up and almost danced, “It’ll be so wonderful, I can hardly wait!”  My jaw dropped as she continued her pirouette around the room, “There’ll be singing and children and lots and lots of food!  Then when it gets dark we’ll have a candle service with the Christmas story acted out by the kids and hundreds of strangers will come in and hear about Jesus!!”
Her joy was almost infectious.
Fortunately, we ‘got thru’ that first Christmas, actually rather happily because we too were sharing Jesus, eating and singing……..
And as the years went on, we began to LOVE the idea of a freezing cold Christmas in a foreign land.  I laughed to my friends that the candle service was the only church service in the winter where I was actually warm, and the memory of that alone lingers fondly with me today.  We discovered that as we made friendships, learned a little more language and “suffered” with “those people” through the bitter cold, the hard seats and interminably long sermons that felt as if they were left over from Samurai days, we actually developed a bond that grew into genuine love. Looking back now, I can see that they gave us SO much more than we’d ever left behind.
God is so good to first share His Son with us, and then to share His children with each other.  Wherever you are this year, be it bitter cold, perishing hot, or somewhere in between, I hope the bonds you’re making with His family will grow only stronger over the years.
As you’re reading this, Tony and I are off to celebrate carols at the church.  It’ll be ‘warm’ for sure, even with the air conditioners pumping overtime, and we’ll have candles, even though it’s still light outside in the mid summer.  And most importantly, we will be celebrating the joy of being together, now and forever, thanking God again for His great Gift.
Pass it around…Marsha

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