Christmas in 2020 arrived under the "normal" coronavirus prevention circumstances. Most churches in urban and rural areas across the country held various celebrations based on the actual situation and local conditions, taking strict prevention measures and limiting the number of people entering the church at the same time. In the past few days after I went to church for Christmas, I interviewed eight Christians over the phone on how they spent Christmas…
Sister Chai: On recalling the preparations for the Christmas performance in October, she got excited on one hand and uneasy on the other hand. The exciting part was that God entrusted this important work to her, as the leader of the choir. The difficult part was that she lacked knowledge of how to organize programs. She was afraid that she would offend God if she couldn't do it well, and that she would be ridiculed if the show didn't succeed.
During the first few days, her mind was blank for several days, and she didn't know where to start; then she knelt and prayed to God. The LORD listened to her prayer, leading her to draw each choreographed action as a foreshortened shape on a piece of white paper, and then connect it with the lyrics.
Then, after nearly two months of intermittent rehearsal with the sisters in the choir, the three performances of the choir achieved unprecedented success in the church's two-day Christmas worship celebration. Seeing the smiles on the face of the sisters in the choir during the performance and listening to the constant applause of the audience, she was so happy and excited.
Brother Chen: He spent Christmas in Shaanxi Bible School. Before the big day, the school began intensive preparation. After undergoing planning and direction by the school music teacher Xue Yan, as well as more pre-selection and rehearsals that lasted for over two months, the performance was successfully carried out on Christmas Eve.
Chen remembered that during preparation and rehearsal, on the one hand, the students had to devote themselves to the intensive study of the Bible and theological culture; on the other hand, they had to take time to rehearse various Biblical dramas, dances, poetry recitations, and other programs.
After lunch at 12:30 on December 19, all the teachers and students gathered in the small auditorium on the fourth floor of the school to set up the stage and adjust the lighting. Around 2:00 p.m., the recording of the Christmas program began. First was the intercession of teacher Dang Gaiqin, and then the four male and female students, who were the hosts, appeared on stage. It was followed by an impassioned opening dance by 12 brothers, followed by a sequence of other programs. It was not until 7:00 p.m. that the Christmas program of Shaanxi Bible School ended.
Sister Chen: As a member of the choir, Chen went all out to attend her church's two-day Christmas worship for the year. In addition to participating in the choir and acting as an extra in some performances, she also participated in the rehearsal and performance of our drama "Your Mirror". Rehearsals for the performance began more than 40 days before Christmas. She thanked her husband and her aged mother for their understanding and support, who gave her time and energy to participate in the rehearsal and performance of the program.
Sister Zhao: Last year's Christmas was an unusual one. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all churches controlled the number of people attending their churches. Her church was no exception, limiting Christmas gatherings to no more than 200 people. Although the old church where she lived was demolished, God let the congregation celebrate Christmas safely in the transition room. There were unspeakable words of gratitude in her heart.
Sister Che: For most of the past year, she and their orchestra have been working in the countryside (Mainly accepting invitations to play music for the wedding and funeral of the brothers and sisters. To send God's blessing to the married, In remembrance of the dead cherished by the Lord).
On Christmas Day, the church arranged for the band to lead the worship. Together with other believers, with a grateful heart, she led the orchestra, worshipped and praised our God. She also went to the stage with the brothers and sisters, singing and dancing to praise our God.
Brother Dong: He waited and waited until the morning of December 24 when he went to church to spend Christmas. The church was livelier than the Chinese New Year, and he went straight to the place where he knew best how to play the piano every Sunday. He is a piano accompanist.
At the worship and praise ceremony, which began at 2 p.m., he played the piano for the elderly singing group. Hearing the praises and songs of each elder sister and brother, he had only one sentence in his heart: "Lord, thank you for choosing me in the vast sea of people and making me a vessel for you to use." His fingers landed on the keyboard, and tears of gratitude fell one after the other.
During the evening of the Christmas Eve worship performance, Dong Sang a hymn, "From the place of sunrise to the place of sunset" for the congregation. On Christmas the 25th, he played the piano again. In the following theatrical performance, he went to the sanctuary platform and sang a hymn titled, "Rekindling Fire" for the congregation.
At 5 p.m. on Christmas day, he and his band accepted an invitation and rushed to a rural church in the high tech Zone for a memorial service.
Sister Li: on the night of Christmas Eve, when she went to the church, the Christmas Eve worship and praise activities were held as scheduled. In the warm candlelight, in the passionate singing of brothers and sisters, the curtain of the Christmas celebration was opened.
The first thing we saw was the brothers and sisters in the choir, holding lit candles. In the gentle melody of the hymn "Silent Night", they went to the front of the stage to offer hymns and sing praise for the Lord. It was followed by a sermon, the theme of which was "The peace of Jesus", which I benefited a lot from listening to. Then began the Christmas praise meeting, the host's passionate opening recitation, magnificent dance presented one after another. There was a performance of a thought-provoking Biblical play, a holy play that teaches people to turn away from evil and do good. There was also light and joyful singing, which made people intoxicated with joy.
There was also a group over the age of 70 who performed lively and festive dance programs. The brothers and sisters used different forms of artistic performance, dressed in festival costumes, to tell the birth of Jesus Christ, God's Son and Savior, and the meaning of his coming to the earth. They also used body language to narrate the story to each of the brothers and sisters who came to the temple, as well as invited guests. The praise meeting did not end until late at night, but everyone was reluctant to leave for a long time.
Sister Zhang: In June 2020, her church resumed normal offline worship activities following government regulations.
On the afternoon of December 24, the provincial government and the municipal government issued an urgent notice, cancelling all the group visits and gatherings at the end of the year to prevent the spread of the pandemic. However, her church's Christmas Eve celebration and worship activities went on smoothly as planned. On the 25th, she worried about whether the church's Christmas celebration would be cancelled (My work unit's annual New Year's Day art show had already been cancelled. A major choral performance in my city had also been cancelled). She was very grateful to hear that the church's Christmas Eve and the following Christmas celebrations went on as usual.
(The article is originally published by Gospel Times.)
- Translated by Nonye Nancy