A child is born to us! A son is given to us! He will be called, "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7).
I will conduct a Christmas-theme workshop for English teachers. All that most teachers and students here know about Christmas is that it involves a jolly old man in a red suit and white beard. We will talk about him, and also about the birth of the Prince of Peace. We will use the Bible story as a basis for word games and teaching activities out here in the middle of the rice fields and orchards of Thailand.
Church of Christ in Thailand
Christmas is near and Argentina's world has turned upside down. We have just been through a State of Emergency (2001). We are struck by the phrase in Isaiah, "Say to those who are afraid, 'Be strong, have no fear.'" God, who restores and saves with power, can transform the deserts of trial and suffering here in Argentina into places of rejoicing and renewal. With that hope we remain and put one foot in front of the other.
Chris, Martha and Micah Stockwell-Goering
Methodist Church in Argentina
Christmas seems a natural time for being happy, but not everybody has the opportunity to celebrate. While consumer cultures encourage us to buy presents, fix our houses and invest in the season's customs, there are entire towns and countries that celebrate just being alive. The humble people in Latin America and the Caribbean, living in the favelas and villas miserias, urban and rural living places of the poor, gather to exchange products, share building resources, look for alternative financial strategies and develop social projects. They remind us of the hope of birth and new life wrapped in the different strips of cloth and mangers of our Latin American continent.
Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto and Joan Arelis Figueroa-Rivera
Latin American Council of Churches
While merchandising has become a major focus of the Christmas season here in Japan, Christmas for me will center around the annual caroling and concert at school and church activities. Groups of students come to my house caroling. It's a wonderful experience to hear their singing from a distance and to listen as they draw near. Perhaps that is how we begin to hear the story of the gift of God to us, Emmanuel—first as a whisper, and then more clearly.
Council of Cooperative Mission in Japan
Advent means T-shirt weather here. Beautiful poinsettias grow wild along the road in anticipation of the holidays. Without the commercialism of the West, the "stripped-down version" of Christmas we celebrate in Nepal seems closer to the event of two millennia ago. We experienced many unsettling events during 2001 including the massacre of Nepal's royal family and the resumption of the Maoist "People's War." Through all of this we take great comfort in the words of the angel, "Fear Not!" These words of Martha Sheldeon (India 1896) echo our thoughts today, "It was as though, at this holy Christmas time, the heavens, full of consolation and peace, were gently brooding over a parched and weary world."
Dale, Bethsaba and Sushma Nafziger
United Mission for Nepal