I don’t remember what I was wearing or whether there was a chill in the air, but I do remember my heart beating fast. The kind of beating that happens when you know this is your chance to speak truth – when what you have been praying for has finally happened and you feel a bit in shock. Had she just asked me a question about Jesus? About the baby in the manger? I leaned forward eagerly, my fingers gripping the tiny Turkish tea cup in my hand. I hoped I would be able to say it clearly. This friend had just asked me to tell her the most important story of all time.
We were sitting in a dim cave made into a tea house in the old city. It smelled of damp, cool, air. I had only ever been to this cave once since I arrived and was delighted when my friend suggested we go there during the month of December to celebrate my Christmas holiday. We ordered tea and some desserts. Our conversation started as usual – about our week, the students, teaching methods, and classroom management struggles. Even on a Saturday, our dedication to our work was evident. Our friendship had grown in the environment of problem solving and working together as colleagues. She changed the subject and asked me to tell about Christmas. “Tell me what it is like. What do you do there? How do you celebrate?” I told her how people decorate the inside and outside of their homes with lights and trees, and how there is Christmas music playing on the radio and in malls and stores. I told her about our tradition of giving gifts and about singing at the church. I described some of our traditional cookies and sweets that we only make during the Christmas season.
Those were some of the things I missed now that I was far away at Christmastime. My friend told me that when she was studying English in college, she prepared a presentation about American holidays. She found information online about our traditions so she was familiar with some of what I was talking about. That is when my moment of opportunity came. My friend explained that during her research of Christmas, there was one painting she found online that was so beautiful and intriguing. She wanted to know if I knew about it. The picture, she remembered, was of the inside of a barn and there was a baby lying in the place where the animals would normally eat. There was a man and woman and many farm animals gathered around the baby. There were also shepherds kneeling and a star shining down on the baby. “I know this picture is important. I want to know the story of it,” she said. The story of the baby! My heart leaped as I began to tell her who that baby was and why he came to earth. My friend was satisfied and listened intently. She had been waiting to hear this story.
I hope you have the chance to tell that same story this Christmas. Perhaps you will read it to your children or grandchildren. Perhaps to an elderly person or a neighbor. When you tell it, remember my friend and others like her who have questions about that baby. As you praise God for his gift, remember that this Advent celebration continues on as Christ enters into the lives of more and more people.