From being cooped up in a tiny apartment with an undiagnosed broken ankle to attending day-long governmental meetings, Christmases in Thailand have been different to say the least. In the States we look forward to the sights and sounds of the holiday season and the chance it affords to reconnect with family and friends. It is easy to get carried away in a sense of wonder and joy that seems so elusive most of the rest of the year. The holidays are a special season, and it is always a challenge to be away from loved ones during this time. In Thailand, although the Christmas season feels much different, it is special nonetheless, and it causes me to reflect more deeply on its true significance.
The month of December is usually quite busy for our church and school, filled with Christmas programs, concerts and various forms of outreach. This year, our most zealous church member, Pi Joon, organized a children’s Christmas program in an underprivileged neighborhood, and many of us were able to assist in the activities. The children laughed hard, played hard and were able to enjoy a modest dramatic production of the Christmas story. Many parents were also in attendance. We strengthened many relationships, and God’s light shone in a dark place.
This year I was scheduled to preach on the Sabbath before Christmas, which afforded me the opportunity to think more deeply about the true meaning of Christmas. As I prayed and studied through the second chapter of Luke, I was led to Isaiah 9:2 where it says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Later in the chapter it talks about the Christ child who would one day be born—the one whom we celebrate during Christmas. Jesus came to bring light to our dark world. He came to give hope to the hopeless and peace to the afflicted. Christmas, in its truest sense, is a reminder of the missionary task that we have been given, and celebrating Christmas in the mission field reinforces that truth for me.
When we celebrate Christmas away from loved ones, far away from our earthly home, we are reminded of the One who left His heavenly home to come to a dark planet to give us the light of life. When we engage in outreach activities and tell the Christmas story, we become God’s lights shining in dark places, and we get to experience the holiday in a rich and full way. Though it is hard to be away from family during the holiday season, I am thankful for the lessons I am able to learn through the experience of celebrating in a foreign land, and the deeper significance its meaning takes on in my heart.