Christmas has become more and more popular as a commercial enterprise, but it is also (obviously) an important time for the church. Much like in the United States, in the weeks before Christmas the churches had a number of special services. Then there were multiple services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I actually didn’t worship in a Chinese church either of those days, partly because they are so busy so I felt I could leave the space for someone else. The church I attend is in a traditional Beijing “alley” which means there is very little parking and the road is very narrow. The announcements on the Sunday before Christmas included instructions for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. You needed to show up early and get a ticket. Tickets were free, but without one you wouldn’t be able to get in so they wouldn’t let more people in than the church can hold. Even with such measures, it was probably fuller than what American fire marshalls would be comfortable with. Because people would be lining up in the street/alley, cars wouldn’t be allowed to enter so they would have to find somewhere else to park. He gave instructions about bicycles, but I didn’t fully understand.
Since I wasn’t going for Christmas Eve, I decided to attend the Children’s Christmas Program the Saturday morning before Christmas. It was a fun and different way for me to celebrate Christmas. The kids were really cute, of course! They attend Sunday School during the entire service so I don’t usually see much of kids on Sundays. This little girl and a teacher were the emcees. They spoke clearly and simply, so I could understand a lot of what they said.
There were several classes of kids that sang songs (with motions), danced, gave a reading, or did a drama. Although it was a Christmas service many of the songs they sang were not specifically Christmas songs. I was hoping one of the dramas would enact the Christmas story, but they didn’t do that. The kids were very excited about performing and they had obviously worked hard.
There was also a part of the program that was slightly older kids playing instruments. Some of them played Christmas carols on their oboe or the piano, and some played classical songs (some Chinese and some Western). A couple of young ladies played this traditional Chinese instrument, called a Guqin.
Another of the performances in this section was one of the most beautiful and unusual arrangements of “Silent Night” I have ever heard. It was arranged for a cello, erhu and piano, so a combination of east and west. The video will give you an idea of how beautiful it was. It will also give you an idea of the different cultural expectations for audience behavior at this sort of event. It also helps me understand why on Sunday the churches are often very directive about how to behave in worship (turn off your cell phone/don’t talk/pray now).
I enjoyed my morning celebrating with these hard-working and talented young people!