Christmas this year was incredibly busy, but wonderful! It is difficult to believe that I’ve celebrated my last Christmas season in the Dominican Republic. Here’s a highlight of our activities:
-Sunday, December 19th: Dominican Baseball Game. Also our first time out with friends without the kiddos in a long, long time. I suppose I won’t be going to any more December baseball games any time soon…
-Monday, December 20th- E.C. Christmas caroling. We (two groups of students and staff) went around to a few houses (pre-arranged) singing Christmas carols (in Spanish, of course!). It was a wonderful way to ring in the Christmas week with community, singing, and snacks (each house shared treats with us). I came away feeling blessed and touched. The Dominican families that opened up their homes to us so clearly enjoyed hearing us singing carols. It was amazing to bring such joy to them through the simple act of singing.
-Wednesday afternoon, December 22nd- Christmas Dinner Bags The kiddos and I accompanied Daniel and the other education staff, along with the students to deliver food bags to families that would otherwise not have Christmas dinner. These are families with which E.C. has built long-term relationships. This experience absolutely blew me away and I felt so privileged to be a part of it. The first house we stopped at required a bit of a climb up the side of a mountain. The woman we met there had just recently lost her mom (who was normally with her to receive the food bags each Christmas). Daniel prayed for her and we sang some Christmas carols to her. We continued to deliver bags, sing carols, and visit with these amazing people. One family had a beautiful new baby, another family had a sweet, tender-hearted boy with (I’m guessing) down-syndrome. I was encouraged to hear that he attends Genesis, a school in town for children with disabilities, run by one of the ministries here. We saw such strength, love, and gratitude in these families, but also suffering and brokenness. My heart went out to them, and the silent prayers I offered seemed to come on their own accord. I will miss this country and the people here!
-Wednesday evening, December 22nd- my family arrived! Their plane was scheduled to arrive around 8:30 but in reality did not arrive until after midnight. After dropping my parents, brother, and sister-in-law off at the place they were staying (close to our house), I arrived home (after 2am) to a screaming baby and a tired, patient husband. We all attempted to sleep in the next morning!
-Thursday, December 23rd- visit to a coffee factory, Jeremiah had his first taste (and last for a while) of coffee. We had a wonderful Dominican lunch, rested in the afternoon (except Daniel, who worked), and attended the E.C. Christmas banquet that evening with good food and dancing.
-Friday, December 24th- Rehearsal for Christmas eve service, visit to a small community (we drove up towards the mountains, then walked down a path into the valley), Christmas eve service (in which both me, my dad, and my brother played the music for the Christmas cantata; Daniel sang with the cantata and Jeremiah was an angel for “Away in the manger.”), and Christmas eve dessert up at a staff’s house
Saturday, Dec. 25- Christmas! J
Sunday- church (we played again together), lunch, waterfalls, out to eat
Monday-Wednesday- trip to the beach. It rained much of the time, but we still enjoyed it
So, that was our Christmas business. We had a great visit with my family and it was wonderful to play music with my brother and dad. Of course, the Christmas season wasn’t all about “doing.” Each year we think about how we can better embrace the reason we celebrate- Christ’s coming! Both at our church and in our home we spent the month before Christmas going through Advent- preparation for Christ’s coming. Through bible readings and having a Jesse tree (we put up an “ornament” for each day to put on the tree along with a scripture reading that goes through the bible showing the preparation for Christ. Since we’re moving soon we used a paper tree and paper ornaments- Jer colored them and taped them to the tree on our bedroom door), we prepared our hearts for Christmas. Also, challenged by a blog I read, I thought of a specific gift I could give Christ each day (such as my praise, a joyful heart, etc.). And the older Jeremiah grows, the more he begins to grasp and understand the joy of Christmas!
And Christ truly is the reason to celebrate! I know many traditions are considered “secular, “ but without Christ’s coming, Christmas decorations and lights wouldn’t bring light to my heart and baking Christmas cookies to share with family and friends would have no meaning. It is Christ who gives me hope and brings joy to the little things I do.
Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy New Year!