Tag Archives: Christmas

Advent & Christmas 2017 @ St. John’s University (SJU) & Advent Church, Taiwan

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!

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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!

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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…

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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!

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And just check out the fruit animals, made by Ms. Cho, one of the students!

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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!

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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:

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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!

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We also welcomed Bishop David J. H. Lai for a confirmation service…..

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Seven people were confirmed ~ ranging in age from 17 to 90!

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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!

Merry Christmas 2016 @ St. John’s University and Advent Church!

St. John’s University and Advent Church is THE place to be for Christmas, and especially when Christmas falls on a weekend ~ last week we had a whole week of Christmas activities in the university and local community, and now we’ve just had a whole weekend of activities in the church.  It’s all non-stop action ~ and it’s back to work and classes tomorrow as usual!

We really kind of moved from Advent into Christmas starting on Thursday December 22 in the afternoon when we did our final walkabout around St. John’s University, lighting all the candles on the Advent Wreaths in each office, singing a verse of Silent Night, distributing Christmas cake and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.   Here we are at the office of our SJU President Peter Herchang Ay – wishing him a Merry Christmas!

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Then on Thursday evening, a huge number of our student fellowship group and lots of their friends dressed up in suitable Christmas attire and off we went around the university campus wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and singing and praying for the students in each dormitory.   We chose Thursday night as many of our students go home for the weekends, so Thursday was the night!   Despite gloriously hot and sunny weather all the rest of the week, Thursday was the day it rained ~ but we still had a great time!

Our first port of call was to Ms. Lu, our church member, former church cleaner and next-door neighbour to the campus ~ she invited us in and we had a great welcome!  Then off to visit the 5 dormitories ~ and by 8:30 pm we were back at Advent Church to collect up our church members who were just finishing their drum class, and off we went to the university home of SJU President Ay, who welcomed us so warmly ~ we lit the candles on the Advent Wreath, sang some carols and enjoyed delicious tang-yuan, customary fare at the midwinter solstice. The tang-yuan was made by one of the lovely ladies who works in the university, and turns out to be one of my neighbours here, hence the photo of the 2 of us below!

Oh yes, and a special photo of President Ay with all the Malaysians in our student fellowship, eating tang-yuan together….

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And a group photo of us all at President Ay’s home….

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Back home at 10:00 pm and up early on Friday to get to Advent Church by 7:30 am where we gathered for our Christmas visit to our neighboring junior-high school branch, where the school principal, head of the parents association, the school branch supervisor and our good friend, Jasmine, and all the children and staff were waiting for us.  We started in the ninth grade class, the oldest children, who that day were taking important exams ~ so we sang and wished them Merry Christmas and distributed sweets…. then off to the school coffee bar for lighting the Advent Wreath candles and singing Silent Night.  Then at 9:00 am, our student team put on a performance of our Christmas Show, 超級好朋友 Supermaster and his Superfriends, for all the children in 7th and 8th grades….

Ah, such a friendly school, such caring teachers and staff, and great kids ~ such a fun morning!

For 4 days this past week, Mrs. Grace Chien, our good friend living nearby in Shuanglien Elderly Center, has had her lovely daughter and 2 grandchildren visiting from Canada, and they’ve been staying in my house ~ so on Friday lunchtime, our church members and old friends of the Chien family (also former president of our school, in the days when it was known as St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology), Andrew Chang and his wife Charlotte, along with our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang and his wife Hannah, kindly hosted us all to a very yummy lunch just up the road in Sanzhi…

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And what is amazing is it turned out that the parents of the lady who owns the restaurant are my next-door neighbours…. ah, it’s a small world!

On Friday evening, I hosted an Advent Church gathering and also invited our community English class to my house for a short Advent service to light the Advent Wreath, sing and pray together, followed by a few refreshments.  I was very honored that Tan Mama and Tan Baba both came, with their son and daughter-in-law, who had kindly made the world’s most delicious Tiramisu for us, it was fantastic!   Sadly no photo of it cos it was all gone in record time!

And so to Saturday, Christmas Eve, yesterday ~ and at 2:00 pm we had our Advent Church Christmas Party for local children….

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We had some games and songs, and then a performance of our Christmas Show, 超級好朋友 Supermaster and his Superfriends…. this acting team was mostly our church members, including our chaplain, Rev. Wu and his wife ~ for many it was their first and only performance, so of course it was brill!

In case you’re wondering, I got a new shirt from the Tan family, and wore it on Christmas Eve, all green and red stripes, see above!

Our Christmas Eve service was held last night at 7:30 pm, starting out with only candles ~ beautiful!  The service included 3 baptisms ~ a former student, now living in Singapore but who came home especially for her baptism, a graduate student who is in our fellowship group and is extremely popular (as you’ll see from the photos below!) – so lots of former students also came back for the service, and a gorgeous baby – the baby is the 6-week old grandson of our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang.   This time, I took the photos of the baptisms from outside the church.  Tan Mama and Tan Baba were there too, dressed appropriately in red and green….

And so to Christmas Day morning, today, a beautifully sunny and warm day, and we were back at Advent Church for our Christmas Day service at 10:00 am, and because it’s near to St. John’s Day, we also used today as St. John’s University Student Fellowship Sunday, and all the readings, prayers, songs etc were led by our students, and offerings went to our chaplaincy student ministry.  The student fellowship group have worked so hard these last few weeks and really cooperated well together, today too!  Today is also the 90th birthday of our church member, Mr. Chang, whose son had ordered a huge cake for us all to enjoy! Oh yes, and Tan Mama and Tan Baba were here again, with their son, all in red and green and looking as wide awake as ever!

At 2:00 pm this afternoon, we had a special Christmas Concert in Advent Church, led by Mrs. Wang, our church member, music teacher here at the university and choir leader of a variety of excellent choirs in the area.  We were honored to welcome President Peter Ay and his wife, and Jasmine Yu and the parents association chair from our junior high school next door. There were also some very very VIP musical guests from Japan, who raised the roof with their voices ~ they were incredible!

So that was our Christmas Weekend ~ an amazing Christmas as always, and so good that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were on a weekend, so everyone could come to church, and we could even have a concert on Christmas Day afternoon.  When Christmas falls in the week, we still have a Christmas Eve service, but with work and school that day and the next, many people find it difficult to come.  So this year we’ve had time to really appreciate the real meaning of Christmas, and enjoy all the celebrations, thanks be to God!

Jesus, our saviour, light of the world, is born.  Emmanuel, God is with us!

Advent Word, Day 27 ‘celebrate’

Day 27 #celebrate #慶祝 Saturday December 24, Christmas Eve

‘Christmas is a feast of the senses! It is a celebration of our ability to see and know and taste and touch the power and glory and revelation of God. It is not just about a birth that happened long, long ago and far, far away. It is about the way in which God manifests himself to us in the person of Jesus as friend and food and hope and love. It is a celebration of our ability to grasp God and to sense him with all our being’.

聖誕節是一場「感知之宴」;在這慶典中,你我看見、知悉、品嘗、並觸摸上主的大能、榮耀、和啟示。聖誕節不僅與那久遠的某個生日有關,它跟上帝的自我顯明也息息相關:神,藉著耶穌,成為你我的益友、靈糧、希望與愛。這是我們可以緊緊抱住神,並全心全意來「感知」上帝的一個特殊節慶啊!

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聖誕快樂! This is my Christmas card for 2016 ~ from the 太魯閣族 Truku Tribe, who live in Taroko Gorge, Taiwan ~ wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Advent Word, Day 26 ‘live’

Day 26 #live #生活 Friday December 23

‘We are meant for life in all its fullness. Our getting together for the sheer pleasure of it anticipates the Kingdom and the heavenly banquet. Conviviality and celebration, especially in the face of difficult circumstances, bring light into the world’.

我們都是為了生命之豐盛、圓滿而做準備。你我相聚一起,其樂融融,乃是「預嚐」(提前享受)天國的饗宴。這無比歡樂的慶典,尤其在艱困的情境中舉行,確實為這世界帶來諸多光明!

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A big Thank You to our new president of St. John’s University, Dr. Peter Herchang Ay for welcoming so many of us from the SJU Chaplaincy and Advent Church to his university home last night to share the good news of Christmas (報佳音), light the Advent Wreath and eat yummy TangYuan 湯圓.  Ah, so happy!

超級好朋友 Supermaster and his Superfriends Christmas Show @ LaoMei Elementary School 老梅國小!

Our amazing team of students from St. John’s University and church members from Advent Church combined to put on a spectacular performance for our Christmas Show 2016 this morning at LaoMei Elementary School ~ and the children were all very lovely and we had a great time!  Thanks to our leader Yo-yo, who took a day off work to support his team, thanks to those who stood in at the last minute, and thanks to everyone for taking part.   It was GREAT!  Here we all are…..

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LaoMei is one of my favourite places in the whole world ~ and I go to the school there sometimes for a few English activities.  So it was extra special.  I took over 800 photos, but you’ll be glad to know I deleted 90% ha ha!  This is the show ~ a wonderful story of the meaning and value of friendship and the importance of accepting yourself and others…

So a very Merry Christmas to all the amazing children and staff of LaoMei Elementary School ~ and to you all of course!

St. James’ Preschool, Taichung ~ Christmas Show-Time!

And what a wonderful event it was!  As always, St. James’ Preschool / Kindergarten, Taichung put on a spectacular all-singing-all-dancing Christmas extravaganza for all the children to take part in ~ magical, and such fun!

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Two long months of rehearsals for about 3 minutes of performance for each class, but it was oh, so worth it ~ the children were delightful, even the few who cried all the way through, or who stood motionless throughout ~ next year, they’ll be fine, honest!  Every ‘small’ class (aged 3-4) and ‘middle’ class (aged 4-5) performed to a song, and the older children in the ‘big’ classes (aged 5-6) had dramas to perform – we had the Christmas Nativity, the parable of the lost sheep, the wedding at Cana and a story about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  All beautifully introduced by Minnie Mouse and her friend in green, 2 of the teachers ~ ah, all of the teachers did such a great job!

At the beginning, we had a candlelit procession from some of the teachers, then Bible readings and prayers, and sharing time from Rev. Lily Chang and others.

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The teachers also performed their own dance at the end ~ I used to have to join in that dance, and, well, let’s say it was never my favorite activity ha ha!

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A few highlights ~ the funniest was definitely the wedding at Cana with their big plastic bottles full of wine….

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The bravest and most moving was the angel telling Mary she was going to have a baby…

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And the cutest was definitely the little lost sheep – he stole the show, he was such a natural on the stage!

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And special mention must go to the noisiest and loudest and most dramatic first little pig, Teacher Yasmin who ran screaming around the stage several times thinking the big bad wolf was coming to get her, then joined by pigs no. 2 and 3 ~ only to find out that the big bad wolf turned out to be Father Christmas after all!

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So congratulations to all at St. James on yesterday’s really great Christmas Show!

And Merry Christmas to all at St. James, and to you all, of course!

From Tyneside with love….

And the Christmas cards are still arriving (thank you everyone!) ~ the latest one to arrive today clearly had the post office people here completely baffled.  Beautiful classical style of handwriting but if you’re not familiar with this style, it’s true, it could be a bit difficult to read.  It’s been stamped as saying that the address is unknown, but someone else has clearly worked it out and written on the envelope in pencil….

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All the way from sunny Tyneside too ~ and maybe I’ll keep it for next year!