I will attempt to tell you about my most memorable Christmas ever.  There will be other stories about the year I lived in China, but because of the holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about that Christmas.

I had gone to China to teach English at a university.  I was sponsored by my church, but I was not an official “missionary.”  We were not allowed to talk about religion, politics or anything controversial, but we could answer any questions the students wanted to ask.

One of the topics they were most curious about was Christmas.  They told me that they had never celebrated Christmas – that Santa had never visited their country, but they were certain that Santa would visit that year since we Americans were there.

I had 125 students, who ranged in age from 16 to 25 (all freshman and this was their first time they had ever been away from home).  They were very naive, sweet and incurably romantic about everything.  Although they were all very poor, they never complained about anything.

I decided to give them projects similar to what I might have done if teaching kindergarten Children.  For example, I asked them to write letters to Santa, asking him for what they wanted.  Some of those letters broke my heart because they asked for such simple things, like an orange to eat.  One boy asked for a motorcycle, and I told him that just wouldn’t fit in Santa’s sleigh.  Most of the other requests touched me deeply and I wished that I had enough money (or could write home) and get everything they had requested.   But I did come to my senses and taught them many other things about Christmas and mostly about it being a season to show love and appreciation and the real Christmas story about the real “Gift.”

My other teacher teammates (4 of us “girls”) planned a Christmas program.  We had the students participate in skits and also make ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree (I don’t remember where we got a tree, but came up with one somehow.)

We teachers sang for them the song, the “12 Days of Christmas,” complete with dancing and silliness.  They laughed but thought that song was way too long.   They actually begged us to stop singing.

The Light of the World

We also taught them the first verse of “Silent Night” and ended the program with a candle lighting.  We could not get them to stop singing nor could we get them to blow out their candles, so we finally decided to leave the banquet room and walk to our homes.

The students followed us, still singing, with their candles lit.  We blew out our candles, but they wouldn’t blow  theirs out.  We went inside and even turned out all of our lights.  It seemed like they stayed in our front yard, serenading us for an hour.  Then, with candles still lit, (and singing), they walked around the lake and campus of the school.

It was extremely moving (but we wished we had taught them more than one verse!)  On Christmas Day, they brought all of us gifts or handmade cards and said they were so happy to be able to celebrate Christmas, even if it was only one time.

My prayer, that night, was that God would use that unforgettable experience in their lives to guide them to Him someday.  They could barely understand English, so I’m sure that they couldn’t grasp the concept of Jesus, God, and the virgin birth.  But God can accomplish anything and our intention was to plant seeds.

Although China is labeled as a communist country, only 5% of the people (the government officials) are actually communist.  The remainder of the people are mostly farmers or ordinary people like you and me.  Even when I was there, so many years ago, I knew that they had a hunger to take over the world.  It appears to me that they are making progress toward that goal.  It’s also interesting to note that Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds there (even if underground.)  Can you imagine what God could do with another billion people, believing in Him?

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