Reflections on Christmas in Thailand
Reflecting back on Christmas here in Thailand, I have a few observations: 1) It get’s a little colder than normal here but it’s not cold. I am still wearing shorts most afternoons. I missed the cold more than expected. I missed the hopeful anticipation of snow, wearing boots and scarves, the coziness of a hot beverage when there is a chill in the air. But I’ll get over it. 2) The celebration of Christmas, although a good attempt is made, is no where near what I am used to at home. People work and go to school on Christmas day. Need I say more? 3) Kids, upon receiving a gift, are the same everywhere. Some shriek with glee while others hide a shy smile, trying to mask their excitement. Some kids are grateful for what they were given and others glance at their friend’s gift with jealous comparison. Some tear open their presents, and others hold onto the wrapped gift for awhile longer, not quite ready for the moment to reach it’s culmination. 4) White-bearded Santas look slightly out of place here, almost creepy. However, I decided the malls still needed them. 5) Most people who do decorate for Christmas, decide to leave their decorations up year-round. ( I noticed this last year)
All in all, I found myself missing Christmas back home. Until December 28 that is. There was a late Christmas celebration at one of the children’s home. My expectations of this Christmas party were low, based on the past two weeks of “Christmas celebration.” However, upon arriving I was surprised to find a huge turkey dinner buffet awaiting us! This was the first time I had turkey in Thailand and I certainly did not hold back. Take note, I’m eating for two now. Following an abundant meal there were games, singing and of course, presents. Each child received a backpack filled with new clothes. To watch the excitement and joy as a five year old carefully pulls out a brand new t-shirt and shorts and gently lays it out on the ground to observe this treasure he just received, it fills your heart. I loved every minute of it! But there was one moment in particular that I will cherish forever.
Before opening the presents, we were instructed to get in small groups and pray with and for each other. I’m going to be honest now and admit, these settings are always a little awkward for me. But I did as we were told. In my group there was Billy, another adult, and two children from the home. Following a brief discussion on how this process should take place, it was decided that the adult would lead us all in prayer. And he prayed a great prayer, something to do with Christmas and remembering the reason for the season. However, following the “amen” the two children quickly informed us that the prayer was not sufficient. “We forgot to pray for Annie’s baby!” You must understand, no one else in the group was prayed for by name and that really didn’t matter much, but how could we forget the child inside me? So we all closed our eyes again and Caleb, a young boy, prayed for our child. In his broken English, so we could understand, he prayed a very simple prayer. I remember two lines: “God, please make this child be good and that he will show his love to you.” It was beautiful.
I have thought about that prayer several times since then. What was it that caused the children to be adamant that our little unborn child not be forgotten in the prayer? Why was he so important to them? As always I am without answers, only speculations. Maybe it is as simple as children remembering other children. Maybe my increasingly large stomach could not go unnoticed or ignored. Perhaps they have been told from early on, that all children are important and a gift from God. Possibly, growing up in a children’s home, they struggle to believe this, or maybe it is just the opposite. What I know is this, a young boy, once abandoned and neglected by those who were supposed to cherish him, would not allow another to be forgotten.
And there you have it, the incredible message of Christmas. God gave us a gift, his precious Son, and we cast Him aside. We despised and rejected Him and left Him to die. Yet He did not abandon us, he did not forsake us. He knows that we matter to God and He spends every moment crying out to God on our behalf: “Make them good people, cause them to love.”