Christmas–that magic blanket that wraps itself
about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may
weave a spell of nostalgia… but always it will be a day of remembrance–a day in
which we think of everything we have ever loved.
~ Augusta E. Rundell ~
Christmas has come and gone with many memories of how God was with us. I related especially to LorrieOrr’s post of her Christmases in Ecuador living away from her family. I too, was away from family in nearby Colombia, and one year I had a special memory mixed with missing family.
My visit to Bogotá coincided with the Christmas season. I was teaching missionary children in a coffee growing area in northern Colombia, and this was my first visit into the interior. I was eager to meet new friends and explore the large city of two million at that time. Travelling with me was Bessie, who in her sixties had spent years in the country as a missionary teacher.
As our jet neared the El Dorado airport that night, banking and circling Bogotá, lights up and down the mountain nearby appeared like so much gold dust spilling from a bucket. As Bessie and I stepped into the night, the cool air at 8,000 feet altitude (2,500 metres) and fresh odour of recent rains enveloped us, a contrast to the tropical Caribbean coast where our flight had originated.
The next afternoon, Christmas and Latino music blasted from stores and kiosks as Bessie and I, along with friends, wove our way around shoppers bustling in and out of stores. In the growing dusk, we stopped to linger at a gigantic outdoor tree draped in garlands, with lights twinkling from behind its leaves. I was surprised that no one had stolen the decorations, as Bogotá was known for its petty thievery.
That evening we attended a classical Christmas Cantata. As I soaked in the music as a thirsty plant soaks up rain, I couldn’t help contrasting the banks of white lilies decorating the church to the poinsettias so common in Canada at Christmas. But then poinsettia bushes grew everywhere, including the pathway on our mission station.
The next days were exciting days visiting with Bessie’s friends and acquaintances, touring sights around Bogotá and browsing through its modern, well-stocked shops. The atmosphere grew frantic as we neared Christmas, with people rushing to buy last-minute purchases. Bessie and I, too, were caught up in the activity, purchasing gifts for family back home.
We would spend Christmas Eve and Day visit with Bessie’s friends and their two children. It would be different for me; I had grown up with an extended family Christmas of over twenty people—aunts and uncles and cousins, all excited to be together, with Grandma hurrying around in her kitchen to finish dinner preparations. Now, being one of only six people with no one my age was strangely quiet. Suddenly I was lonely for a houseful of people.
But it was a restful evening, and as we prepared for bed, Bessie was given the guest bedroom, and I slept on the couch. In the glow of the Christmas tree lights, the wood softly crackling in the fireplace, I crawled under the warmth of an electric blanket—so welcomed because of Bogotá’s cold nights—and read the story of the first Christmas.
As I closed my Bible and meditated for a few minutes, the embers in the fireplace still crackled orange, and warmth beyond the fireplace and electric blanket enfolded me. That Christmas Eve became a night of music in my heart as I thanked God for bringing me to Colombia and to Bogotá, and I echoed the angels’ words: “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Although I missed my family, I knew that “Emmanuel” was with me.
Since that time, I have often thought fondly of that Christmas. It brought its own treasured memories that carried me into the next years and into the rest of my life.