A Christmas Eve service seemed normal enough.  We’d attended this infant church, housed in a tent, for the nine months we had so far spent immersed in Korean language study.  Tomorrow would be our family’s first Christmas in our adopted country.  When the pastor told us about a 10:00pm service this evening, we readily agreed to attend, assuming we’d be singing carols by candlelight for an hour or two just like the folks back in America.  We were wrong.


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Sitting on the floor during the four-hour preaching service, I envied my preschoolers who quickly succumbed to sleep.  As language learners, my husband and I understood little of the messages being poured out.  I yearned to be home arranging gifts beneath the Christmas tree.  Digging deep, I pulled up enough patience to endure the trial and silently rejoiced when the pastor finally pronounced a benediction.  My joy was short-lived, though, when he announced that the whole congregation would now go caroling around the neighborhood.  At 2:30am.

At 4:00am we finally headed for our homes.  I was ready to sleep late and relax for the rest of the day after exchanging gifts with my family, so I almost loosed an audible cry when our pastor said, “See you back at 10:00.”  What we had not understood was that the Korean believers perceived Christmas as a church holiday.  At a time when only 25% of the 40 million people in Korea believed in Jesus, these church members rejoiced in spending the entire day together, singing, worshiping, playing games and eating mountains of food.  The celebration that began on Christmas Eve resumed later on Christmas morning and continued long into the evening.

Although that first holiday in Korea felt excruciating, bereft as it seemed of family intimacy and tradition, I grew to appreciate the joy and communion of subsequent Christmases with our Korean brothers and sisters.  Their focus fell entirely on Christ, who is the true center of the season.  At home we continued doing American things with out kids – lighting Advent candles, decorating the house and tree, baking holiday goodies, hanging stockings, and wrapping gifts that we found time to exchange between worship services on Christmas Day.  But the time we spent with our Korean church family encouraged us to rejoice in God’s wonderful gift of himself incarnate and in the fellowship of believers.  We learned that spiritual love and unity transcend culture and tradition.

Vivian Conrad was a missionary and teacher in Asia for 24 years.  She holds a bachelor of arts in Christian education and music, a master of arts in theology, and a 2nd master's in Christian Education.  She currently teaches AP English & Literature at Weatherford Christian School in Texas. She is a guest writer and photographer for Teach Me Joy.

Great Printables by Vivian

The Literary Devices Poster Set is a fantastic set of 24 different posters.  Each poster explains a different literary device with an example and coordinating picture.  Vivian is in the process of making her first online course teaching the literary devices & how to analyze literature with them.

Tell the Story is a fantastic resource to encourage creative writing. It combines picture prompts with questions designed to help organize thoughts. Children can interpret the stories hidden within the photos and try to capture their ideas in writing on separate sheets of paper.  This book includes 100 pages of original photos and writing prompts.

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