Yes, I took an extended vacation from writing posts for my blog, but all to enjoy the company of my son, Julian, who came from San Diego. My sister, Carol, and her husband, Tim, and their two children, Kimberly and Ryan, came from Seattle to complete the houseful of guests we had for Christmas! They all arrived in Chiang Mai on December 23rd at 8 AM after hours and hours spent in the air and in airports along the way. Determined to “power through” until sunset, most of them made it. Kimberly was the first to crash in the afternoon, followed by Julian who swears he never intended to “power through” the day. We spent a day sorting out places to sleep, pillows, towels, drinking cups and toothbrushes for everyone and unpacking everything they brought with them at our request. Then, after a quiet day at home, we gathered at Billy’s Restaurant for a fantastic dinner with some friends on Christmas Eve. No, not my usual pesto pizza!! Lots of other great dishes in a splashy and delicious holiday meal.
From there, we went to First Church Chiang Mai for the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. What a joyful celebration that was – with a good sermon and special music to lift our spirits and fill our hearts with joy! Two of Sunee’s daughters (A and Oi) and their families and Kathryn McDaniel were also there and after the service, we took some photos to remember the day. After worship on Christmas Eve, it is a tradition at this church for the members to walk across the main bridge in a candlelight procession to the Governor’s home in order to sing Christmas carols to him and his family. I did not join the procession this year because Mom was not feeling strong enough to come along. Instead, we went home and hung our stockings, hoping that Santa would remember that we were no longer in Texas, California and Washington.
Christmas Day dawned crisp and clear, but quickly warmed up. We rushed through breakfast in order to get to worship at 9 AM at First Church. It was wonderful to see the huge throngs of people who came to worship! Everyone was dressed in their best and the front of the church was lined with poinsettias. The senior pastor, Ajarn Boonyawat, gave the sermon, standing in front of a full-sized thatched-roofed stable with the figures of Mary, Joseph and the Babe inside. We also enjoyed some special music by a chorus of women. There were some children standing in front of the chorus – one was dressed in a white bunny rabbit outfit. (I am not sure of the significance of that in this culture.) What was hilarious to those of us who could see it was the antics of another young boy who kept trying to squeeze and pull the bunny rabbit’s tail! After a time, the young bunny rabbit got tired to trying to keep the young man from pulling on his tail and he gave him a good shove. (See thumbnail photo below.) Just a reminder that we are not perfect, no matter how carefully we are dressed up.
The most meaningful part of the service, in my opinion, was the morning offering. First, several Wisemen sang a song about bringing gifts to Jesus. The song was a modern ballad and asked the question of the gifts we have to offer. (See additional thumbnails below) Then, they knelt before the stable and offered their gifts to the Christ child. Immediately after that, the congregation was invited to bring their gifts. Beautiful satin bags trimmed with beads and glitter were given to the person at one end of the pew and passed down the pew to collect the offering. The person at the other end of each pew was then invited to come forward to leave the bag filled with the day’s offering at the manger in the stable. It was moving to see all these people come forward to lay their bags at the manger. My brother-in-law Tim was the person at the end of the pew and he went forward with the bag filled with our offerings.
As is customary in many Thai Christian churches, the church prepared the noon meal and it was served immediately following the service. We did not stay for the meal at the church, as it had already been a long service and Mom was very tired. Instead, we returned home and spent a quiet Christmas together as a family, thinking of those who were preparing for their own Christmases in other places and wishing they were there with us. I hope your Christmas was as filled with joy and blessing as ours. May the blessings of Christ our Savior be with you all in the coming year!