Jesus' Presence in My Life
When I was asked to write about the meaning of Christmas for a newsletter for Columban lay missionaries, I wished to share with other missionaries about something special or unique which others never imagined. But it was not easy for me to reflect and write because Christmas day in my country of assignment [China] is not a holiday. For the majority of people here the significance of Christmas means very little to them. My first experience of Christmas day last year was quite different from my previous experiences in Korea and Canada. I would like however to share what I have learned from that unconventional Christmas experience.
I arrived in China in November. Because Christmas was fast approaching we lay missionaries were tasked to help out in one of the local churches, to prepare a display of various nativity scenes from different countries. The display was to highlight the various images relating to the celebration of Christmas from different countries. It was meant to bring awareness to people of the different expressions of celebration of Christ's birth.
During Christmas day I noticed a huge crowd in the church. The church was full of believers, non-believers, curious and interested people. It was interesting to see the huge number of people who curiously went to the church to see what was going on and celebrate the "ping an ye" or the evening of peace even if they didn't fully understand the meaning of the occasion. For Catholics, it was also a great time for evangelization. I went to Mass with my fellow Columbans. My first Christmas on mission went smoothly.
Looking back, I read my reflections which I wrote last Christmas. The page was filled with experiences of my initial struggles in trying to understand the culture and learning the language. I have identified feelings such as anger, frustration, disappointment and hatred. I also wrote of my concern with how to deal with all those feelings. I would say that during that time I was overwhelmed. I was preoccupied with all those struggles that I didn't have time to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and how I would welcome the birth of Jesus. I felt sad to realize that I was not able to focus on the meaning of the season during my first Christmas on mission.
This year will be my second Christmas on mission. For the past year I was learning the language, and I worked hard to study Chinese to be able to communicate with the people. I am glad that I can now manage to engage in simple conversations. This progress makes me happy, and it gives me the confidence to live here and engage with the locals. I have met many people through the help of other Columbans. Some of them really inspire me to recognize Jesus's presence in my life.
I feel that I am in my spiritual life and in my heart I feel a stronger sense of Jesus in my life.
This Christmas, I have a deeper sense of the significance of Christmas, and I am more ready to welcome Christ in my heart. This gives me a stronger impetus to dedicate myself for mission. The meaning of Christmas day last year didn't come into my heart, but this time I learned and understood myself more, especially the aspect of my weaknesses. I believe that Jesus never abandoned me. He was there for me. He embraced my weaknesses and encouraged me to move forward and to continue to embrace my calling as a missionary. So I pray that this Christmas my heart will be full of hope and joy in my missionary journey in this culture I am called to live and learn from; in this place whose people I am called to serve. At last, I can say that this season will be a merry Christmas one for me!
Originally from Korea, Columban lay missionary Minah Seo lives and works in China.