Yes, a big day for Advent Church! On the first Sunday after Christmas, we always celebrate St. John’s Day ~ and as this is St. John’s University, all our students past and present from the St. John’s University Student Fellowship – plus church members past and present – are always invited back. And today was the day! Part of the theme of Advent is to ‘return’, and returning home to our home church is one of the things we’ve encouraged everyone to do this month. And as it’s the last Sunday of 2015, it also seems a great way to give thanks and to remember God’s goodness to us throughout the past year.
So today’s service at Advent Church was run as much as possible by the students from our student fellowship group. They welcomed everyone as they came in, carried the cross (2 crosses no less!), did the readings and notices, sang in the choir, took up the offerings and generally made everything happen that is supposed to happen! They were well-supported by students who’ve already graduated but who also returned, the furthest I think had driven an hour or more from Taoyuan. We were also delighted to see Su Mama, returned home to Advent Church (she’s in the first photo below, smiling away with Hannah!) ~ in fact there were lots of happy reunions with old friends from near and far!
In his sermon, Rev. Lennon Chang shared about what 2015 has meant to him, focusing on the birth of his first grandchild earlier in the year, then the overseas mission trip in the summer – and how he and Rev. Wu both returned with dengue fever – then his fundraising experiences (a whole other story – so watch this space!), and the long-awaited Occupancy Permit for our new church centre. He shared with us about how Mr. Duan, one of our church members who lives in a nearby care home, had been praying about this very long-awaited permit, and God had told him that the permit would actually arrive on December 23. We prayed it would. And it did!
So all in all, a great service of thanksgiving….
And we finished the service with a group photo of anyone we could find who is or has been a student here – plus a few who maybe weren’t, but would liked to have been!
And the day did not stop here! Part of the attraction of coming back to Advent Church on St. John’s Day is to help run our children’s Christmas Party in the afternoon. So from 2-4 pm, our wonderful students, past and present, well-supported by church members and friends, welcomed lots of lovely children and their families from the local community to a fun Christmas Party ~ yes, fun guaranteed!
This year for the first time, we invited a group from YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Tamsui, who are here from the USA on a short mission trip ~ they came and sang lots of songs, danced, did some drama, played some games and shared some of their Christmas joy and the good news of Christmas with us all. They were great ~ and their hip hop dance, ballet and contemporary dances were amazing!
Oh yes, and of course a great group photo to finish with!
So a wonderful, amazing, tremendous, fantastic, special day ~ and thanks to the hard work of all our students! And very special thanks to our chaplaincy staff, Shu-Jing and Yu-Lin, both of whom have been working night and day for weeks and weeks to make everything happen as it should – and it did! The children were happy, so were the parents. Even the little girl from the breakfast shop across the road came along with her family. She was delighted to win a little bag from our lucky draw. Clearly made her day. Every time I see her, I say ‘hello’, and she now calls me by my new name, ‘Hello A-yi’ (‘Hello Aunty’) every time I see her. Ah, so sweet! She’s already looking forward to next year. So are we of course!
Thanking God for His many blessings of this past year, for our students, church members and all in the local community. Praying for all our outreach, for all those who came to our church today for the first time, and for all those who experienced something of the joy and meaning of Christmas!