merry christmas! i miss you.
christmas here is funny. it really doesn't seem like christmas. it has been a nice change of pace from the over-materialized christmas' in america. decorations didn't go up until mid-december. people don't do a lot of christmas shopping. carols are not belted out twenty-four hours from every store you pass. but it's been nice.
saturday we got to go to two christmas eve services, even though it was really christmas eve eve. one was at our church in jerusalem and one was at our church in bethlehem. hannah got to come with us (yea for hannah being here!!) and experience both of our churches. while we were at the one in jerusalem, she realized that the pastor of the church is the dad of a guy she met in D.C. this summer and had given me and jason their info and told us we should find the church. we never followed up on that, but God led us there anyway. good thing that He doesn't let us ruin all of his neat little plans.
yesterday, jason, hannah and i made a christmas eve feast for some of the workers and residents at the house of hope. there were about 16 people all together. we made chicken marinated in italian dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rice, salad, pecan pie, apple pie. it was delicious, if i do say so myself. and there was no garlic in the entire meal. that was a rule. it was a really nice time to get to hang out with the blind old ladies, fida and lulu outside of work, and the other guys that live here. we sang christmas carols after we ate, so it felt a little like a christmas feast, but still not too much.
for christmas eve, we went up to manger square. i mean, where else would you go in bethlehem for christmas? we didn't get into the church, because you had to have a ticket to the midnight mass to get in, which sell out about a year in advance. but there were thousands of people out and we met up with some friends from our church in jerusalem, so it was a nice time. it felt more like a big new years eve party than christmas eve though. there was a group from spain performing and they were kind of a bunch of primadonnas and not very good and not very engaging. rumor also has it that they wouldn't let other groups, like local choirs, use their sound system, so there were no choirs singing christmas carols like there were supposed to be. but despite the lack of christmas things, it was a fun evening. we got to hang out with our police friend, tamir (the one who's wedding we crashed) and hang out with john, our favorite shop keeper. it was also nice to just see foreigners in bethlehem and to see the palestinians out having a good time and forgetting for a moment about the situation that they live in. even though most were muslims and don't understand christmas, they were getting joy from the birth of Christ, even if they did not know it.
today hannah and i went to the church of the nativity. while in the area where the manger was, we got to stand in on a mass, which was very nice. it made the visit more contemplative and less about seeing an old building that doesn't move me very much. it was nice to be there more as pilgrims and less as tourists and to just sit and think about the incarnation of our God.
so that sums up our christmas in bethlehem 2006. we were going to go to a dinner at our church in jerusalem, but i'm getting the flu, so we canceled that plan. i think we're having a lord of the rings marathon instead.
i hope that you all had a merry christmas and that the peace of Christ is in your hearts.