Christmas of 2004, our Princess was five weeks old. We were in Japan, and besides the four of us (Cooter didn’t arrive until a little over two years later), the only family we had there were the folks who had wrapped us up in their arms and hearts and called us their own. This special family invited us to go to Christmas Eve service with them at their church in a small Japanese community. I was thrilled. Christmas Eve service has long been one of my most precious moments of each Christmas season. I was very happy that we would be continuing the tradition.
It was even more beautiful than I could imagine. By the time we got there, having ridden in the van with our friends through the dark Japanese countryside, the dimly lit church was a lovely setting for a quiet evening of reflection about that first Christmas. When we arrived, our friends introduced us to the only other “foreigner” in attendance. He was an American around our age who had traveled there years before and married a Japanese woman. He was fluent in both languages, and he offered to translate the evening’s service for us.
I was so thankful for him that night, but tonight as I sit here where I have no problem understanding what anyone is saying, I am even more appreciative. He gave up his quiet evening of worship to share with us, so we could feel a part of things. And understand.
It was a beautiful evening, and when the minister spoke of the baby Jesus, he gestured toward our own baby and wondered aloud what Christmas would come to mean for her.
I am teary-eyed as I remember it tonight, and I think about how her being down with the flu took something from our joy this season. She is one who truly carries Christmas joy in her heart.
That evening years ago closed with a singing of Christmas carols. The last song of the night was “Silent Night” complete with the sharing of lighting the candles. The lyrics were spelled phonetically in Japanese on a screen so that we could sing along to the song and the tune we knew by heart. But in a new and beautiful way.
And it was one of the most moving moments in my memory.
The faces of those around us, people we had just met and some we had not, glowed in the reflection of the light. Their smiles were contagious and the Love in the room was palpable. Just as real as the newborn baby whose life we were remembering and giving thanks for.
Tonight I found a video of “Silent Night” being sung in Japanese, and it carried me back to that wonderful night. And a wonderful part of our journey, spent with beautiful people who didn’t discount us or look down on us because we were in the minority and quite different. I remember the young man who interpreted and shared the message so unselfishly, so that we could hear it as well.
I am thankful for the Christmas season and for those who share the message of Love and Light so graciously, not just one day but everyday, so that we can all feel included and loved. I give thanks for our Princess who finally started feeling better today–I have missed her light and laughter. And I am thankful for a beautiful song, sung halfway around the world in a foreign dialect and yet made me feel at home.
That’s part of what I love about the magic of Christmas. It can bring the memories of home wherever you are.
Wishing you all someone to step in and share with you so that your day is even richer and for a song to lift your spirits and carry you home no matter what language it is in.
Love to all.