a special sunday
Today’s post is another narrative of events. I wish you all could come and see it all, but this will have to do you for now!
I left the school at 8:30am with my roommate, Patricia (from Namibia), and we spent the next hour and a half riding the bus, riding the subway, and walking through the very urban and very, very cold area. Walking up to the huge Christian Church is one of my favorite sights here in Beijing, with it’s giant red letters that say “基督教堂, Christian Church” over the top, the big white cross built into the architecture, and the huge Christmas trees made of strings of lights for the season. You can hear the music from the Chinese service playing over the speakers outside, and also as you walk into the church itself.
Patricia went to hang out in a coffee shop while I went up to the 4th floor and squeezed into a little choir room with chairs, a podium, and a piano. All the members of our worship team assembled by 10:15, and Urpo (from Finland) prayed for us as we began. Lesley (UK), Urpo, Andrew (China), and Luna (China) were our leaders for this week, but we also had nearly ten other Chinese singers, along with Jonathan (China) on drums, Paul (Guyana) on percussion, Henry and Jenny (China) on guitar, Victor (Venezuela) on bass, and myself on the piano. We spent the next hour running through the songs we practiced on Wednesday: Joy to the World, O Holy Night, More than Amazing, and O Come All Ye Faithful. And then we prayed again before heading down to the sanctuary.
The sanctuary, or Main Hall, is quite large and filled with pews, seating at least 300 people at a time. The worship team is placed at the front, but the piano is on the far front-left. We always spend 5-10 minutes setting up, getting mics to the right volume, etc. while the full church watches us or chats among themselves. Because there is always a line outside the church before it begins, the sanctuary is always full by the time we come down. I’m guaranteed a seat on the piano bench, but one week when Rachel and I came late, we had to stand in the back because there was no room at all.
We sang our songs, lit the third advent candle, and then the message began. Her message was entitled “Because of Love,” and she started by reading a piece of Matthew, then telling a story that I thought extremely poignant. She told of a farmer who woke up one morning to discovered a large, fresh, new layer of snow outside. As he went to check on his animals, he saw several small birds struggling in the cold, with no warmth and no food. He knew they would die without shelter and nourishment. He tried to coax them into his barn, but they were afraid of him. The farmer wished he was a bird so he could tell them the truth about what he was doing for them. Similarly, we as humans are struggling in cold world full of sin and lacking nourishment. In order to show us the way, God did become a “bird.” He became a human being through Jesus because of His love. And we celebrate that every Christmas.
The pastor asked if anyone wanted to begin this loving relationship with Jesus today. And as we played background music, people began standing up and coming forward. Church members began praying with them in smaller groups as the rest of the congregation rejoiced. I was crying, because this was the first time I’d ever seen this happen here. And how else could I react to seeing new souls enter the most wonderful relationship they will ever discover, as well as receiving the free salvation of their souls?!
The service came to a close, and we played our “Welcome Song” that we sing every week for newcomers, but added “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” into it this time. And as I gathered my things, found Patricia, and walked out of the sanctuary, I realized just how blessed I am to be a part of this. O come, let us adore Him!