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Christmas 2006 (1/07)

Basketballs bounce in Xi'an

Zhangye, a deeper look (7/06)

China comes to Virginia (7/06)

Winter Conference 

Happy Birthday, Amity, 
Part 1

Part 2 (11/05)

Bringing Sunshine,
Part 1

Part 2 (10/05)

Summer 2005: (7/05)

Needed: China volunteers

Bluefield College in China

Lantern Festival (2/05)

Village of God (2/05)

Summer 2004:

FBC Richmond (5/20)

Opposites attract (5/26)

Mission Impossible (5/24)

Rules for a new mother (10/24)

Brocade Museum (10/24)

Barbara Diggs at NIM (4/4)

Fujian Earthen Houses (2/14)

Zhangzhou Puppets (2/14)

Merry Christmas

JIE's 50th Anniversary

Oral English Competition

Sam's Page

Virginia Baptists arrive for 2002 SEP, Shanghai - Nanjing

Part 2: in Jining, the program begins

Inner Mongolia's grasslands

Baotou and Wudang Temple

Abby and Sarah in Xi'an

Discovering the Nestorian Pagoda

Eating Zongzi June, 2002

Mary Washington comes to China, Part 1
Part 2 May/June 2002

Xi'an May 2002
Terracotta soldiers
   The Nestorian tablet





My wish to you for a
Merry and Meaningful


The following adaptation of the biblical story of Christmas was given to each of nearly 200 students. The underlined words were blanks to be filled in (a technique called 'cloze' in ESL). The italicized comments indicate how knowing the Chinese culture helps me to better understand the biblical culture. After all, the biblical culture is more Eastern than Western. The nativity set shown in the photo came from the Amity Christian Arts Center. The cow is a water buffalo and the figures have Chinese characteristics. I used this device to illustrate the story as I told it in six classes this month. 


The Christmas Story from the Bible

Luke 1,2; Matthew 1,2

About 2000 years ago, a young woman named Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph.

In China, as in long ago Israel, engagement is a serious matter. In China, if a young man and woman speak of each other as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to others, it means they are essentially engaged and expect to marry. Chinese do not casually date.

One day, an angel appeared to Mary and said, "You will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be the Son of God."

Matthew tells us that the angel told Joseph that Mary's child is to be named Jesus, which name means 'Jehovah is salvation." Chinese names always have meaning, and are given as an indication of the parents' hope for the child's future.

The government said everyone should return to his hometown to be counted, so Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem. When they arrived, there were no rooms left in the inn.

In China, if you ask someone his hometown, he may not have ever been to the place he names. I once asked a student where he was from. He answered, "Heilongjiang," which is the northernmost province, next to Russia. I learned later that he had never been there, but that his grandfather was from there. This is the common practice in China, to think of being from the place where your ancestors were from rather than just the place where you were born. The Bible says Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, not because they had been born there, but because their ancestor David was from there.

So, Mary and Joseph had to stay in the stable with the animals. That night, Mary's baby boy was born. She wrapped him up in cloths and laid him in the feeding box.

Since living in China, I have learned that newborn babies are wrapped tightly in a long strip of cloth, wound around so that the baby's arms and legs cannot move. According to pictures, they look like little cocoons lying side by side. It seems quite likely to me that the "swaddling clothes," or "cloths" as the modern translations put it, that  Mary wrapped the little baby Jesus in was very much like that.

That night, some shepherds were in the fields taking care of their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. The angel said, "Today your Savior was born in Bethlehem! He is Christ the Lord. You will find him wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding box."

The name "Christ," is really a title, not Jesus' name, and it follows the name, just as it would in China. In Chinese, I  would be called "Yang laoshi." My Chinese surname is Yang, and "laoshi" means teacher,, or a Mr. Wang would be addressed as "Wang xiansheng, with xiansheng meaning mister."

Then the sky was filled with angels saying, "Glory to God in the highest!" The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem. They found Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. Everything was just as the angel had said. Then the shepherds went back to their sheep. As they walked, they praised God and thanked him for everything they had seen and heard.

I have traveled in Inner Mongolia and Ningxia, and have seen flocks of sheep in the fields, with the shepherds nearby watching over them. It is easy to picture the shepherds going into Bethlehem on foot, just as Chinese shepherds would likely travel.

From far away, came wise men looking for Jesus. They had followed his star all the way to Bethlehem. When they found Jesus they worshipped him and gave him gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.

China is a gift-giving culture and no Chinese ever visits someone without bearing a gift.

May your Christmas be meaningful as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, along with brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.