Thursday, December 8, 2016

O.S.F. Christmas Activities - Week One

December is my favorite month with the O.S.F. students, because it's all about Christmas. This year, it's three weeks (because we only meet once a week) of Christmas preparation and celebration. Week one (so this week) we talked about Christmas traditions, started practicing Christmas carols for caroling, read the Christmas story (from Luke 2:1-20), and made cards. Next week we're in the kitchen cutting out, baking, and decorating sugar cookies (always a delicious Christmas tradition!). And two weeks from now, we'll go caroling at some of the local businesses and to some of the teachers' houses who live on campus.

We started out by talking about Christmas traditions, and how, at least some of, the traditions tie back into the Christmas story.

Then we sang "Away in a Manger" (so we talked about how Jesus wasn't born in a fancy hospital, or even a house... but a cave) and "Angels We Have Heard on High." Before singing that last one, we went to the slide with "Gloria in excelsis deo!" I asked the students if any of them wanted to guess what language it is. One girl guessed Spanish, which I thought was a pretty good guess, so I said, "Good guess! But no. Older than Spanish." So then one of the boys guessed Portuguese. Eventually I explained that it was Latin, and roughly it means "Glory to God in the highest!" (which then tied into when the angels visit the shepherds). 

Because here in Taiwan religion is so localized (gods literally reside in whatever temple they're currently at in many cases), I often find that my students believe that God lives in America, speaks only English, and really only cares about Americans. So, before reading the Christmas story this evening, we started by looking at a map of the Roman Empire. Jesus wasn't born the U.S. or any part of any of the Americas for that matter.I pointed to a spot on the map and asked if anyone knew what that country was/where Jesus was born. One of the senior high girls in the back answered, "Israel" and one of the boys in the front added, "Bethlehem." God knows all languages and cares about all people, that's why He sent the gift of His Son at Christmas.

We did have a lot to accomplish tonight, so we read the Christmas story in Chinese only. But I asked some questions or made some comments as we went along, which Barb translated into Chinese as necessary.

Then it was on to making cards!

因 今 天 在 大 衛 的 城 裡 , 為 你 們 生 了 救 主 , 就 是 主 基 督 。 你 們 要 看 見 一 個 嬰 孩 , 包 著 布 , 臥 在 馬 槽 裡 , 那 就 是 記 號 了 。忽 然 , 有 一 大 隊 天 兵 同 那 天 使 讚 美 神 說 :在 至 高 之 處 榮 耀 歸 與 神 ! 在 地 上 平 安 歸 與 他 所 喜 悅 的 人 ( 有 古 卷 作 : 喜 悅 歸 與 人 ) !路 加 福 音 2:11-14

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Time to Prepare

As we've entered the season of Advent this year, the amount of preparation we're doing for Christmas - whether it's organized events, or things going on in the classroom - has really struck me this year. Advent is supposed to be a season of preparing; both preparing to celebrate Jesus's birth at Christmas but also at looking ahead and preparing for His second coming. For me, I often get so caught up in the preparation, that I can lose sight of what I'm actually preparing for. But, this year, I've had a chance to step back a bit (not that I'm still not busy getting one thing or another ready), and I'm really enjoying this new perspective. A view where the preparation isn't just geared towards another holiday with all the right trimmings, but a celebration of Jesus's birth (and ultimately, what that means for us).

Part of this new perspective comes from the amalgamation of Bible classes that I teach this year, and the way that the Christmas unit has been broken down. Two weeks ago, my K3 students started looking at the birth of John the Baptist as the start to their Christmas unit. And, although, what stood out to my students was that Zachariah couldn't talk until John was born and named John (and they had a lot of fun miming talking but making no sound :)), what stood out to me was the purpose of John the Baptist - to prepare the way for Jesus.

What are we preparing for? Christmas. The celebration of Jesus's birth. And those preparations can look different.

Last week, in both K1 and K3, the students were learning about story of the first Christmas. We even acted the story out in class. Mary and Joseph taking a long trip. They finally arrive in Bethlehem and start knocking on doors, only to be told by innkeepers, "NO ROOM!" (This was also a popular role to the students, as they enjoyed saying, "NO ROOM!"). Finally, Mary says, "I'm tired." Joseph points out, "Mary will have a baby." And a kindly innkeeper says, "I have a stable." And it's in this lowly stable that Jesus is born. This week, we added in the shepherds and angels to the in-class drama. Along with, in K3, talking about Anna and Simeon, who prophesied that Jesus was the coming Savior of the world. The students love singing Christmas songs, like "Go Tell It on the Mountain." Between acting the story out and singing Christmas songs, they're just excited! But what also hits me, is that with all this excitement, they all settle down and sit really quietly for the Christmas story when we're reading it out of one of the many picture book versions of it that we use (although, there usually is a burst of awe when all the angels arrive).

With some of my older students, classes and preparation take a different direction. My CE3 (third grade) students are only to the part of the Christmas story where the angel, Gabriel, comes to tell Mary that she will have a child, the Son of God, and name Him Jesus, because He will save His people. Before talking about the story though, I asked a simple question. "What do you think of when you hear the word 'Christmas'?" I received a litany of things that are related to the holiday we call Christmas: Christmas trees, snow, cookies, gifts, stars, etc. As kids named things off, I drew pictures of them on the board. Soon, half of the white board was filled. "Yes, we often have these things at Christmas. But why do we celebrate Christmas?" Most of the students had to stop and think about this. Eventually, a student or two would venture something about a baby or wise-men. So, we talked about how Jesus's birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas (and I drew a very simple nativity scene on the board). That the stars we think of on the tree come from the star the wise-men followed. And then, in preparation for Christmas, this week, part of class was spent making Christmas cards to be given to residents at local nursing homes.

Hard at work, or hardly working?

CE3A's cards

Our brainstorming Christmas white board was put to good use with card making!

Students from CE3B with their finished cards

As I continue to think of the weeks ahead, it is easy for me to come up with a list of all the things I need to get done to "be ready for Christmas." There are skits to practice, cookies to bake, still more cards to make, carols to be sung, and ensembles to practice in,  just to name a few. And none of those things are bad in themselves. But in the midst of the flurry of activity going on around me, it's also important to remember what we're really preparing for: Jesus coming.

The angel told Zachariah that John would be a man " make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).

I pray that in the midst of the busy-ness of the holiday season, that I too can be a person that "...make[s] ready a people prepared for the Lord," including myself.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

You Make Beautiful Things

This past Thursday, Dec. 1, was a designated American led J1 (seventh grade) chapel. For our theme we chose 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." Advent marks the beginning of a new church year, a time of preparation while we wait for Jesus, who makes all things new. 

(We had used this verse, and the same skit we'd end up performing, last spring, so there was already some ground work in place, although we also made some updates/changes.)

In the skit, there are five different people: anger, hopeless, fear, not good enough, and lonely. We tried to pick things that we know the students struggle with feeling themselves. To help and make sure the students, who all have varying English levels, understood, each of the characters wore a hear with their "name" on in in both English and Chinese. Plus, there was a slide projected behind the skit with a Bible verse on in pertaining to what was happening on the stage, again both in English and Chinese. Then, throughout the skit, each person had an encounter with Jesus. It was just a conversation. Some of the people had heard of Jesus, some knew Him already, and some had no clue who this Jesus was. But by the end of each short talk, the person had offered to Jesus their burden, and He replaced it with one of His gifts. For example, anger was replaced by joy. 

 We talked about how throughout our life, we all feel these different things, like anger or fear or loneliness, but how Jesus wants us to give these to Him, so that He can replace these feelings with joy and peace, etc. God created us and loves us. 

We watched a video of the song, "You Make Beautiful Things."  

Chapel ended with us looking at the theme verse one more time and then a prayer.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Riding with Jesus

Today is a rainy day. And, as I heard the raining falling in my half conscious waking up state this morning, and finally peeled my eyes open and saw just how wet it was outside, I was very thankful that I'd been offered a ride to church this morning by a friend who owns a scooter. And, an hour or so later, as I was sitting on the back of this scooter, behind my friend, I couldn't help but realize that there were some similarities between riding on a scooter with a friend in the rain and life with Jesus. (Bear with me).

What struck me most with this metaphor is that the driver takes the brunt of the elements. It doesn't mean that I don't get somewhere wet sitting behind the driver in the rain, but driver is shielding me from the majority of the head on rain. And, the faster you're going, the more rain a person's clothes seem to absorb. Similarly, going through life with Jesus, Jesus took the brunt of the punishment for our sins. It doesn't mean there aren't consequences (like the rain that still falls on me as a passenger), but because of Jesus I'm not condemned to spend eternity in hell.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Also, as a passenger, I'm not actually in control of where I am going. I'm not the driver. I trust that the driver will take me where he/she said, which is also, presumably, where I need to go. Life is full of decisions, I can choose what I do or what I don't do (like to get on the scooter behind a friend). However, once I'm on the scooter, I'm not in control anymore. Once Jesus is a part of my life, I can choose to follow Him or not, but once I'm following Him, it's not about me anymore. 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8