There are only a few days left to Christmas! This year is the first year that I’m observing Advent by having daily Advent reading and meditation. I love it so much! The deeper acknowledgment about this season has helped me slow down, push away noises, and channel thoughts towards Christmas’s message. It has encouraged me to pause during a busy day and receive the hope and joy brought by Christ’s coming.
In China, schools don’t break for Christmas. It’s not a national holiday but one more reason to promote merchandise.
On Christmas Day, the first year of my senior high school, my class joined the neighboring class for an English drama party. I played the little match girl.
I’d read the story by Hans Christian Andersen as a child, and it’d stuck with me for a long time. It was such a sad story, I thought, and my tears wet the pages of the book.
The vision of heaven the match girl saw before she died sparked something in me. Without understanding it in my mind, my heart was searching for meaning and redemption for the girl. Where did she go? Was she with her grandma, warm and happy in the end? What is heaven?
However, at that Christmas party, as I was playing the little girl, holding out a basket of matches and calling with all my emotions before my classmates, “Sell matches, sell matches. Would you like a box of matches” I seemed to understand better what kind of vision she would need to keep her soul warm.
Three years later, at another Christmas party I attended as a freshman in university, I learned for the first time that Christmas was for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
I didn’t know much about Jesus at that time. But my grandma, who lived in a small town about four hours away, knew Jesus. She was the only Christian in my family then.
Once, when she was visiting us, she wanted me to read aloud the Bible for her because she couldn’t read much with her primary school education. I took her Bible, flipped through it, and saw she penned Pinyin in tiny letters above almost every Chinese character. She had been studying Chinese characters in her Bible, one by one, to improve her literacy.
As stubborn as I was at that time, I didn’t read the Bible for her — “a strange book,” I thought. But it left me an impression of how my grandma read the Bible and believed in God.
The same winter after I learned about the real meaning of Christmas, my grandma passed away in a heart attack, suddenly yet peacefully in her armchair at home, right after a family meal she had prepared and enjoyed, surrounded by all her children and grandchildren. My mom told me, Jesus took her to heaven.
I often think of the way my grandma passed, and it made me unafraid of death if death could be this gracious.
The following Spring, I prayed my first prayer to God the Father on a walk with a friend. Soon after, I learned more about Jesus and why I needed Him.
I finally came to realize that I didn’t just play the little match girl once, I was her—- in the condition of my soul. How desperately, I, too, needed the vision to keep me warm.
I couldn’t agree more with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said: “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”
This Advent, as I’m meditating on the meaning of Christ’s first and second coming and how it has impacted me and altered my family line, I couldn’t help but praise Him.
My friend, I hope you also have created some margin to slow down in this season and allow the Holy Spirit to establish His government in your heart so you could walk in full hope and joy.
Thank you so much for trusting my words in your inbox, dear friend. I’m going to take a holiday soon, and if I don’t see you next week on my blog, I will see you in the new year of 2021! Thank you again for riding along and supporting my work!
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.
“For to us, a child is born; to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
“Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” ( Isaiah 9：2,6,7)