Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Children of Hong Kong!

A star waits patiently for the drama to unfold

So carefully, this young Hong Kong Joseph guides his Mary to the little town of Bethlehem.

The choirs of angels included "my" first and second graders, who sang of the Creation of the World, and God's new creation, as He sent his son.

Silent Night sounds extra beautiful when it is sung in Cantonese!

 The angels with their not-quite angelic sheep...

And a final glorious tableau of the birth of the Savior Jesus, born to a poor family, filling the whole Earth with wonder and hope.

The Story according to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2

8That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord's glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10But the angel said, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11This very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay."
    13Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
    14"Praise God in heaven!
   Peace on earth to everyone
   who pleases God."
    15After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about." 16They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay. 

Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas with Snoopy?

Christmas carols were blaring over the sound system, and this was the scene at the local mall last night as Wayne and I finalized our little bit of Christmas shopping. First we thought it was Santa, but no, it was an exhibition of Snoopy for Christmas, and people eagerly posed their children for pictures with the old dog.

So what is Christmas all about, anyway?

I did a little exercise with my little four and five year olds at the Hoppy Palace English Tutoring Center this week,  asking the kids which Christmas cards were their favorites.  They picked out the sparkling snow scenes (even though... or maybe especially because few of them have ever seen real snow).   Another big winner was the jolly Santa card.

When I showed them the cards with the manger scene, and the one of Mary and Jesus, the general response was, "not Christmas card." 

I wonder how most kids in the world would answer… and I suspect maybe not all that differently.
 "Do you understand what you are[seeing]?" Philip asked.  "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?"  -- Acts 8:30b-31 (paraphrased)

Wayne & I love  getting to be part of telling  the real story of Christmas with the people of Hong Kong and China.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent 3 and a half: Almost Christmas 2009

I didn't do a thing to this photo... it just mysteriously came out this way tonight, after I had snapped it quickly, right after the LTS (Lutheran Theological Seminary) Christmas Program in the seminary chapel tonight.

Can you tell that Wayne enjoys teaching at the seminary?  Life isn't this great all the time... but our lives ARE punctuated with moments like these.

A little preview of Christmas:  Joy to the world!!!

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David."  -- John the Baptist's father, Zechariah, upon the birth of his son, who would prepare the way for the Savior Jesus

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent 3: Speaking in (Cantonese) Tongues

This was the week I took a deep breath and finally did part of the liturgy in Cantonese:
Before Holy Communion:
Tjuu yuu leih moon tuhng jeui!   (The Lord be with you!)
and the Words of Institution:
Ngoh Juu yeso bei my dik la yaht yeh... (in the night our Lord Jesus was betrayed...)
and the Benediction:
Yuhn chunglahng dik Juu Seuhngdai, Sihng Fuu, Sihng Tzee, Sing Lihng... (May God bless you, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...)

My face burned hot as I did it, because I knew I was stumbling and bumbling with these words, even after months of practice.

But I got at least a dozen comments telling me "very good!" on the Cantonese liturgy, and I suddenly got warmer smiles from people of the parish than I've ever gotten before (I've been going there once a month for five months, now).

It was clear to me that my attempt at speaking Cantonese was more important to everybody than my well-crafted sermon -- which had, of course, been given in English.

It goes to show you how important it is for people to hear God's word in their own language, even if (in my case) that language is very poorly spoken.

Another lesson in humility for me.

I guess that's exactly what's behind God humbling Himself & sending his Son into the world as a baby -- the incarnation. There is no more universal language among human beings, than that of a baby, looking with big eyes on a brand new world, and that of a family, celebrating the birth of a child.

Advent blessings to you all!!!

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God... emptied himself  taking on the very nature of a servant, being born in human likeness..."  -- Philippians 2:6-7

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ants, Apples & Advent

I have worked 26 weeks now at the Hoppy Palace Phonics Center here in Hong Kong.  I know this because we just started the letter "A" again, and once again I trudged out to find an ant (a nice large one) for my kids to examine.

Many little children in Hong Kong  have so little time to watch, wait, and wonder.

A recent article in the South China Morning Post reported that some anxious Hong Kong parents are enrolling their three year old children in two kindergarten programs at a time, hoping to give their kids an "edge" in the extremely competitive school systems.  Little ones are spending as much as ten hours a day in school.

In the Christian Church year, A is for Advent, and ancient tradition counsels us to watch and wait for the dawn of the new Creation: the birth, and one day the return, of Jesus the Christ.

So this week, before turning to the book work, the circling of letters and the phonics blending exercises, I spend some time with my little students, just watching the ant, as he eats his apple.  (A is for ant and A is for apple). I have cut fresh apple slices for my students, too, and we munch together, in our closet-sized classroom with its sterile, plastic furnishings.  This is not a Christian school where I am free to share the Bible stories, and I don't think many of my students know much about the real Christmas.  But now they have had a tiny taste of Advent, a time to slow down and  marvel at the intricacies of one of God's littlest creatures.

"Go to the ant... consider its ways and be wise!"  -- Proverbs 6:6