SJU is definitely a happening kind of place during Advent and Christmas! Taiwan doesn’t have any holidays for Christmas, so apart from weekends, the students are here in classes all over Christmas, the office staff are working all over Christmas, the professors are teaching all over Christmas (and this year our engineering faculty / college had an OFSTED-style inspection starting on December 25!) so we just get on and make the most of it!
During Advent, every department and main office in St. John’s University has an Advent wreath on display, and every week the St. John’s University Chaplaincy Team and student fellowship walk around the university campus visiting all those offices in turn, starting with President Ay’s office.
We invite one of the staff of each office to light the Advent candle(s) and read a Bible verse, we sing a carol or say a prayer, share greetings, and move on to the next office. It takes 3-4 hours to complete the circuit. One day we also included our new class of Vietnamese students, who gathered in a large group and joined in…
As there’s about 30 offices on the campus and we visit each office 4 times over the course of Advent, hey that’s quite a few candles being lit and prayers being offered!
Our students and church members have been busy for weeks preparing a Christmas drama, this year it actually included the Bible story of Christmas. We had 2 teams rehearsing, one of students and one of church members – with some overlap; during Advent, we took the performance around the community to different places. The students performed the drama during their evangelistic outreach event early in December, and on Saturday December 16, the church members performed the drama for our children’s Christmas party ~ it was fast-moving and thrilling to watch!
At Advent Church, we have said thank you and goodbye to Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, who after about 5 years of monthly preaching at Advent Church is finally retiring, at nearly 80 years old. This was his last Sunday with us on December 10 – so we all gathered for a group photo. Thank you Michael!
My monthly visits to Laomei Elementary School (an extension of Advent Church ministry) also continued through December, with our theme of Christmas trees. Ah, the kids are so much fun – these are the younger ones!
Our combined SJU and Advent Church Christmas Charity Bazaar is held every year on the Wednesday before Christmas. This year it was December 20, and everyone was busy for weeks beforehand getting ready. This year’s charity is Taiwan Xi En 希恩之家 in Kaohsiung, which was founded originally to provide a way of helping mothers who might otherwise decide to have an abortion, and the charity’s home helps take care of babies and small children up to the age of 2 years old. Our aim was to raise NT$ 250,000 and it looks like we might exceed that, thanks be to God! Most of the money is actually raised from direct donations, but the bazaar gives the students a chance to do their bit to help, giving of their time and buying their lunch that day at the bazaar. The day of the actual bazaar was dry weather – for the first time for many years! Not only that, but the weather continued dry and even sunny throughout the whole Christmas weekend. Possibly a first – YES!
The following day, Thursday December 21 was the Christmas carol-singing and final Advent walkabout, lighting all the 5 candles, and also visiting the student dormitories and our local neighbours. We had also visited Xian-Xiao (our neighbouring junior-high school branch) a few days earlier for carol singing and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
Then on Friday evening, our church members joined with the student fellowship and we extended our carol singing to cover the whole area from Tamsui up to Sanzhi. I joined the group that was singing outside the new ramen noodle shop run by our church members in northern Tamsui….
And then all the different carol-singing groups met up to visit SJU President Ay’s home here in his university accommodation. We had such a warm welcome!
On Christmas Eve, we held our evening service at 7:30 pm, starting in candlelight, and wonderfully supported by our choir, who as always, sang beautifully.
We had 2 baptisms that evening, Mr. Huang, brother of one of our former students who was baptized himself here a few years ago, and the other was our good friend, Jasmine Yu, in charge of Xian-Xiao School….
Jasmine invited 12 members of her family to come and witness this momentous event. These were virtually all people I know from the mountain-climbing trips we have done together over the years. Apart from one of her cousins who is a Christian, Jasmine is the first Christian in her family, and yet they all came along to support her. What a great testimony, and praise God! Please pray for them all!
Christmas Day, being a Monday, was a normal work and school day here in Taiwan. We had a short service on Christmas Day, and then we had another one today, December 27, for St. John’s Day – patron saint of SJU…
And last night, December 26, we had a wonderful Christmas Party for my combined community English class groups. Normally I have 2 adult English groups, one meeting on Monday afternoons, and the other (a new class this term) on Tuesday evenings. Actually the Monday afternoon group are mainly church members, and they took on the responsibility of running the party for the Tuesday evening group, who are mostly not. Everyone brought food, wore red and we all had a great time. Ah, I love red!
And just check out the fruit animals, made by Ms. Cho, one of the students!
We danced, ate, played Bingo, musical chairs and musical animal statues and it was all so funny, I could hardly take photos for laughing so much. Spot the penguins. And the lions. And plenty of other animals. Just my kinda party!
SJU has a brand new set of LED lights along our main campus boulevard, strings of blue and white lights hanging from all the banyan trees, and looking very splendid. The students are so impressed they are all taking and posting photos of themselves in the lights. This was last night, the grand opening was tonight!
Non-stop all month, and more to come lol. For now though, this is it. Christmas is well and truly upon us!
Belated Christmas greetings to you all!
Updated on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017:
This morning in Advent Church we celebrated the First Sunday of Christmas. As it comes only days after St. John’s Day on December 27, so our SJU student fellowship were responsible for leading the worship, doing the readings, the notices, collection etc. They all did a great job!
We also welcomed Bishop David J. H. Lai for a confirmation service…..
Seven people were confirmed ~ ranging in age from 17 to 90!
Congratulations to everyone ~ and what a great way to end 2017!
Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2018 ~ and I’m off to write my new year resolutions!