Listen to the story!
As I was driving to the church, the Andy Williams’ song came on the radio. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I looked down the poverty-stricken streets full of mud and shacks made of wood scraps and cardboard.
“Do the people of Valle Verde feel it’s the most wonderful time of the year?”
There were no colorful Christmas lights. No beautifully decorated trees in windows. Just mud. Lots and lots of mud.
I couldn’t help but think about Christmas in the US and feeling my friends in Valle Verde were really missing out. I wished they could see the giant Christmas trees full of lights and colorful bulbs. Or celebrate with warm cider while playing in the snow.
Instead, as I arrived at the church for the celebration, there was nothing that said, “Christmas is here.” I walked in with a heavy heart searching my mind for resources to bring Christmas to Valle Verde.
The one-room building was cold with no heat available and the floors were muddy, even though they had just been cleaned. There was a makeshift manger that looked nothing like the one in Christmas cards.
Maria was carrying her newborn who was playing the part of baby Jesus. And, whose name actually was Jesús. She looked cold and miserable.
My heart ached at all they were missing. Then, a cold wind blew in and it hit me!
The first Christmas 2,000 years ago may have looked just like the scene in front of me. At Jesus’ birth, there were no colorful lights, or a decorated manger. There was probably dirt and mud just like this and animals that probably didn’t smell like Christmas potpourri.
I imagined myself standing before Jesus. The setting was real — the animals that had wandered over from the neighbor’s yard. Maria holding Jesús. The songs of worship. I realized this was it.
My friends in Valle Verde were actually experiencing a more authentic Christmas celebration than I had ever seen.
As I drove home, I was overwhelmed with joy and thanked God for the privilege to have witnessed all this. I began to feel sorry for all my friends in the US who were missing out on Christmas here, which really is “the most wonderful time of the year.”