For my Secret Santa gift at the office I got a very large bottle of whitening lotion…. Yup, it was a very Thailand Christmas this year…
Its really quite amazing spending the holidays in another culture. Most of us have had the experience of spending Christmas with someone else’s family, while away or at your significant other’s, and that in and of itself is different. But to do the holidays in I completely different culture with no family member or long time loved one n sight, well, that is something.
I’m not a huge fan of the holidays, actually. I always feel like I am drowning in them back home. Thanksgiving is great…. food….family… ain’t nothing wrong with that. Thanksgiving is what Christmas should be. Then materialism comes in and messes it all up.
I found that the materialism followed me to Thailand, living in the city means living around the wealth. Thailand is still considered a developing country… but there are still people here with LOTS of money, the starkness between the rich and the poor here is insane. I have never seen such ridiculously large and extravagant shopping malls in my life… then to go from there to outreach at the bars where you know most of them ended up there because of poverty, it’s a tough feeling to deal with.
For Christmas Eve this year the Nightlight team teamed up with another ministry to spread some Christmas cheer. Armed with a few hundred roses and special gifts for the street kids, we dressed up in Christmas colors and learned a couple of carols in Thai. It was great spreading a little bit of joy around in such a dark place, but as we entered the redlight area and saw all the Western men there doing as they always do, my heart broke a little more than usual. It was Christmas Eve, and the bars seemed even more full than usual…
There is so much that can cloud us away from the true meaning of Christmas just like there is so much that can cloud us from the true meaning of life. What Christmas is supposed to be is a reminder of that meaning, a reminder of the in-breaking of our savior who saved us from that darkness and cloudiness that threatens every corner of this world. A reminder of Christ Joy, Peace, and Love…
Christmas night I left on a train for Chaing Mai, the cooler hill country of Thailand, for a little break from the city. It was absolutely beautiful. I was looking forward to escaping into nature for a little bit. We decided to go white water rafting. It was great fun winding our way around all of those obstacles laughing and screaming my head off. Then at the end of our run we entered a clam part of the river. The rushing water sounds stopped and all that was left to hear was the gentle sounds of nature and the occasional swishing of a paddle. The transition was incredible. The peace of it all almost brought me to tears. And all I could think of was “the peace of God which transcends all understanding…”
“This…” I thought, “is what Christmas should be.”
Instead of craziness, and materialism, and stressing out over all the gifts to be bought and Christmas parties to go to, Christmas should be time of re-centering of the Peace and Hope that Jesus Christ offers us.
One of My favorite Christmas carols is “Oh Holy Night.” One of the lines in particular stood out to me this year, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn…”
When we think of the inbreaking of Jesus into this world, a thrill of hope should run through us, joy should well up, not because of things we might get, but because no matter how weary we get in this dark world…. There is hope, Jesus Christ… which brings about a peace like no other.