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Ranger said in December 13th, 2008 at 5:11 am

My best Christmas memory came last year. My family moved to China right after Christmas in 2006 (on Dec. 28th). We had a good first year, made a lot of new friends, learned some Chinese, etc. but were still homesick around Christmas.

Christmas in China is very different from what I’m used to in America. My father was an oil man, so I spent time in the Middle East growing up, but since we lived in a compound of British, Canadian and American foreigners Christmas still felt “Christmasy.” Before Christmas Eve last year, nothing felt “Christmasy.” We tried as much as we could to give our son a traditional American Christmas, but had to do a lot of improvising. There was only one place in town where we could buy anything remotely resembling a Christmas tree, so we went and bought one. We had brought a few ornaments with us, but had to improvise with other items from around the house and the local store that we could use as ornaments. We couldn’t find an imported Turkey or Ham anywhere, so we ate homemade chicken soup before opening presents and drank some homemade apple cider. It was a struggle to make these moments feel “Christmasy,” but we kept trying by singing carols and attempting to keep my son’s attention long enough to read the biblical stories.

Things changed after we opened our presents and decided to go to the local “Three Self” church for the Christmas eve service. After only one year of Chinese, we knew that we would only understand maybe 30% of the service, but we decided to try anyways. We got to the service an hour early, but the church was already packed. The sanctuary was built after WWII by military troops who wanted to give a gift to the city (strange I know considering under 1% of China was Christian back then), but it holds about 3000 people when seated. At 11 o’clock every seat was full, the aisles were full of people sitting on the ground, the back was full and others were crowded around speakers in the stairwells.

Since we were foreigners, and since my wife wanted to be where she could see our son (children are not allowed to hear the service by law, so they have a soundproof playroom in the back where they can play), someone pushed us into the crowd and led us to a pew by the children’s room where they forced open seats for us. Everyone was singing together or praying silently to themselves. After an hour the service started and for the most part we had no idea what was going on. But just like what we were used to back “home” the service ended with Silent Night (in Chinese) by candlelight. As I stood and looked around I was simply amazed at God’s goodness and his all-encompassing love. To my left was a lady wearing traditional village clothes who didn’t look to be Han Chinese (the majority people group), and was probably Yi. To our right was a finely dressed man, who told us after the service that he could speak a little English and was a professor at the local university. And there we were in the middle, far away from America, yet right at “home” in God’s presence.

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Bob Hayton said in December 13th, 2008 at 7:19 am

It’s hard to pick a favorite memory. But one stands out from my childhood days.

My sister was either 2 or 3, and for me it was still a new thing to have a cute little sister (I was 6 years older than she). I believe Mom had her dressed up in a little red nightgown with a night cap on. The special gift for her was to be a Cabbage Patch doll. Rather than wrapping it up, Mom had it just sitting under the tree.

When I saw the gift, I was overcome with excitement for how little Katie would respond. Sure enough, she got up and rushed out to the tree and her eyes lit up with wonder and she grabbed her doll, treasuring it as only a little toddler can.

I think that Christmas was when I first learned that Christmas giving is not about me getting stuff, but about family and friends sharing love with one another. As the years passed from that day, the giving rather than receiving of gifts became more and more what I looked forward to at Christmas.

Now as a father of my own four little girls, I can’t wait to see the sparkle in their eyes this Christmas!

Note to the judges: the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are technically my memory, the others are additional commentary…. Not sure if this is brief enough, but I was blessed in my remembering of this memory.

Thanks for the contest. May everyone have a blessed Christmas. And Praise God for His Son, the greatest gift of all.

Bob Hayton

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Jason L. Skipper said in December 13th, 2008 at 7:29 am

I think my favorite Christmas memory is from two years ago. We took custody of a baby boy just before Thanksgiving, and then took custody of his 22 month old sister Dec. 20.
Seeing a child who had never had much at all open present after present (we bought, and the people who had custody before we did sent presents, too) did something to my heart. Now that little boy is 2 years old our little girl is almost 4. We’ve adopted them, and can hardly wait to read the account of the birth of Christ and have Christmas with them this year.

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Nick Norelli said in December 13th, 2008 at 8:30 am

My favorite Christmas memory was my daughter’s first Christmas in 2002. She was almost a year old and we went crazy with presents. The entire living room was full of them, they wrapped around the tree for 2-3 feet in every direction. But she didn’t care anything about the presents, she just wanted to be with her family. It’s a nice reminder about the true spirit of Christmas.

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Tim Ashcraft said in December 13th, 2008 at 1:08 pm

My favorite Christmas memory comes from 1982. My wife and I were a young married couple hoping for our first child. My bother and sister had recently graduated high school. Our dad suffered a massive heart attack early in December and nearly died. He was recovering from bypass surgery and was well enough to come home for a few hours on Christmas morning. So Mom and I brought him home from the hospital. On the way home Dad kept looking around at our old neighborhood as though seeing it for the first time.

Shortly after arriving home my grandmother came in to join us for breakfast (Dad’s mother-in-law; his mother had recently died). Without a word my grandmother went over to my dad, hugged him and started crying, Dad joining her. When Dad composed himself he asked me to lead in giving thanks for the food since he didn’t think he could make it through. Dad lived to see all three of his children married with families of their own. He lived to see all five of his grandchildren, two of them completely grown up.

My grandmother died in 1987. Dad passed away two years ago. I think back on that Christmas morning in 1982 and begin to realize how wonderful it will be when someday we have our grand reunion in Heaven. It really will be life from the dead. All thanks to our wonderful Lord, whose coming into the world we celebrate, and whose second coming we anticipate!