Imagine a summer’s evening. It’s 90 degrees and you open your doors to get a breeze. You hear the sound of children playing soccer in the streets. The smell of meat cooking floats off the grill. Sounds like any other summer day, but this one is different – it’s in December and it’s Christmas Eve.
Getting used to Christmas in the summer was one of many adjustments we had to make while on mission in Chile. Christmas is no longer defined by snow and hot chocolate.
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My mother always sends me a care package at Christmas, but I find the items she sends a little off – things like hot apple cider mix, pumpkin pie seasoning and snowflake ornaments. It’s not that I don’t love a good cup of cider, but at that time of year, I would much rather have the traditional Chilean drink mote con huesillos, which is cold peach juice with oats and dried peaches.
We have always thought that we had a handle on the true meaning of Christmas but, when you take away the trimmings, it makes you look at the holiday in a new light. At first, we just didn’t “feel” like it was Christmas and got a little depressed around holiday time. But, with time, instead of anticipating candy filled stockings on Christmas morning, we began looking forward to greeting Baby Jesus at the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
In Chile, families bring the Baby Jesus from their cribs at home and have the figure blessed at Midnight Mass. Jesus is born in each home as the family places the figure in the crib. Only then is Christmas dinner shared and presents exchanged.
Luke 2: 25-32
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
1. Is there something about the holiday season that is distracting me from the Christian message of Christmas?
2. How am I preparing my heart to receive Jesus on Christmas Eve?
3. Does my family have any traditions that help keep us focused on the true meaning of Christmas? If not, what new family traditions could we start?
Anna and David Draper are Columban Lay Missionaries living in Chile. Read a recent Q&A with them on missioning in Chile.