It started 2 months ago.
I arrived on Wednesday after class to Meng Zhui Wan park, where my swimming pool is located, to find quite a crowd.
Every day, I have been swimming as a part of my daily exercise and relaxing routine. After a 20-minute taxi ride, I step to the curbside to walk across the tiled expanse of park that surrounds the outdoor and indoor pools. Usually around noon, a small spattering of elderly are out in groups doing tai qi, ballroom dancing or swinging from the athletic equipment set up for the public use.
There aren’t usually too many but on that particular Wednesday awhile back, there were small clusters of people spread out all over. As I made my way around them, I noticed that one particular group stood in a circle, heads bowed while saying the Lord’s Prayer. Another, a small band, was in full swing playing Joy to the World. And still yet other active gatherers were working diligently on a fan dance performed to a Chinese hymn booming from their portable cassette player.
Ah, the preparations for Christmas in China were underway!
CHINESE CHRISTIANS PREPARING FOR CHURCH CELEBRATIONS
It is the custom in most Chinese churches to have performances for midnight eve services.
Last year, I was in the Luzhou church choir and we also were preparing weeks in advance for our special numbers, We Wish You a Merry Christmas (in English) and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus (in Chinese). Our Sunday school classes (all ages), retired folks’ choir, youth and children’s choirs, instrumentalists and others were likewise getting ready for their dance, skit or musical numbers.
I remember we all met at the church at different times to practice so we had to coordinate who got the sanctuary when. Sometimes, we ran into a bit of overlap, much to the irritation of our choir director “John” Lu. I then found out that adult choir trumps all other circles in the Luzhou church. We were never the ones to move, especially when Director Lu was in charge.
Many would have met at our local city park if possible but the park was closed for the year to undergo renovations, thus it was the church we stayed at.
How nice that here in Chengdu, the church Christians could gather outside in an environment suited for such large numbers!
REACHING PERFORMANCE PERFECTION
Every Wednesday, I’ve hung back 10 minutes or so to watch everyone’s progress in their practices. I did tell a few of the ladies, during a break once, that I was also a Christian and participated in services in Luzhou last year. I’d be happy to attend their worship but I’d instead be returning on the 24th to spend time with my church family along the Yangtze.
“Oh, what a pity!” several said with great disappointment.
Yes, in many ways, it is a pity because they’ve really improved over the past 2 months. I have no doubt the Christmas Eve services at Chengdu’s main Protestant church (quite near the park, actually) will prove to be quite something special, as will all upcoming celebrations throughout the Christian communities here, Luzhou included.
Many blessings for your own Christmas celebrations, wherever you might be, and wishing you Ping An (Peace) during your Yuletide season.