When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

21 12 2011

I don’t know if you can relate to this or not, but there are times when it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.
It’s not that Christmas isn’t celebrated here in Hong Kong or in China for that matter – they do, and there are all kinds of reminders of the season everywhere we go. We hear Christmas carols being played in the elevators, on public transportation and throughout the many malls.  We see countless Christmas displays in front of apartment complexes, and most shopping malls have their own Christmas tree (usually a color other than green) for people to come and admire. But even with all of that, there are times when it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
We both grew up in North America, where Christmas celebrations were made up of things like spending time with family decorating the Christmas tree and playing outside in the cold and the snow.  We’re not expecting it to snow here in Hong Kong this Christmas (the last time in snowed here was in 1975) – and compared with most places in North America the weather here will be quite balmy this year.  This year will be the first time we have not had any of our children with us for Christmas – their work schedule (and ours) plus the cost of air travel made it unworkable for us to get together.  So for us this year, without some of those familiar traditions, there are times when it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
But what we’ve come to realize during these times is that it’s important to remember the real reason for celebrating Christmas.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we affirm that Christmas is the time we celebrate God’s greatest gift to mankind – His son Jesus Christ.  He stepped out of heaven, and came to this earth to provide our salvation – Jesus Christ is Immanuel – God with us! (Matthew 1:23)
We will have the opportunity to reflect on the message in this name, Immanuel, as we will spend Christmas in China this year, and have the privilege of attending several of the special outreach services planned by Christians there.  At the front of many church sanctuaries, the characters for the name Immanuel are featured clearly with a cross in the center. While we’re not certain which Christmas carols they’ll sing, or what kind of dramatic presentations children will give, or testimonies that we’ll hear from young and old – we know that together with them we will celebrate Immanuel – God with us.
So, whether you are able to enjoy all the things that make Christmas special for you and your family, or whether it doesn’t feel like Christmas for you this year – remember to celebrate Immanuel – God with us. He’s the same, no matter where we are – with or without the holiday trimmings.

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie

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Chinese Word Power

12 12 2011

Joel just returned from a week-long trip in China, and came across a few Chinese words that he hadn’t seen or read before. On one day, he was at a restaurant ordering a meal when he realized that while he recognized the four Chinese characters describing the dish (新奥尔良 – xīn ào ěr liáng), he couldn’t figure out what they meant!  It was only later that he realized that this was a ‘New Orlean’s’ style dish.  [The first character means ‘new’, and the last 3 characters are supposed to sound like ‘Orleans’].
As in most other languages, some Chinese characters/words are literal translations of a specific word: 书 (shū) – book; some words are transliterations from English (the Chinese pronunciation sounds like the English word) -咖啡 (kā fēi) coffee; and then there are words where the Chinese characters represent the concept of the particular word: 打字机 (dǎ zì jī / hit character machine) – typewriter.
So here’s the challenge for you with the following quiz.  We have put together 10 Chinese words – and given you the English translation for each character.  We have also provided you with the pinyin translation of the word (sound it out).  We have also put together a list of 20 words to choose from.  Can you match the Chinese characters with the correct English translation?  Make sure you sound out all the words (read the pinyin translation), but also consider the concept being expressed by the Chinese translation. Give it a try – test your linguistic and deductive skills!

Chinese Word / Phrase English Word / Phrase
1. Add oil (加油) A. Bowling ball
Pinyin:   jiā yóu B. Bright idea
2. Electric brain  (电脑) C. Brunette
Pinyin:   diàn nǎo D. Coca-Cola
3. Fire vehicle  (火车) E. Computer
Pinyin:   huǒ chē F. Counterfeiter
4. Many changes  (多变) G. Fax machine
Pinyin:   duō biàn H. Fickle
5. Sand hair  (沙发) I. Fried noodles
Pinyin:   shā fā J. Gas station
6. Stinky beautiful  (臭美) K. Go for it! Let’s go team!
Pinyin:   chòu měi L. Golf
7. Strolling, strolling ball  (遛遛球) M. Great meal!
Pinyin:   liù liu qiú N. Race car
8. Tall that husband ball  (高尔夫球) O. Sandwich
Pinyin:   gāo ěr fū qiú P. Sofa
9. Tasty delightful  (可口可乐) Q. Three Mile Island
Pinyin:   kě kǒu kě lè R. Train
10. Three bright cure (三明治) S. Vain
Pinyin:   sān míng zhì T. Yo-Yo

Now that you’ve made your decisions, here are the correct answers!

Chinese Word / Phrase English Word / Phrase
1. Add oil [jiā yóu] K. Go for it! Let’s go team!
(This is a cheer often used by fans at sporting events in China.)
2. Electric brain  [diàn nǎo] E. Computer
(Makes sense, doesn’t it?)
3. Fire vehicle  [huǒ chē] R. Train
(Possibly based on early descriptions of trains in China)
4. Many changes  [duō biàn] H. Fickle
(Much like the English definition – quick to change one’s mind)
5. Sand hair  [shā fā] P. Sofa
(It’s supposed to sound like the English word for sofa)
6. Stinky beautiful  [chòu měi] S. Vain
(Much like the English definition – excessive self regard)
7. Strolling, strolling ball  [liù liu qiú] T. Yo-Yo
(They must have seen someone perform that trick with a yo-yo!)
8. Tall that husband ball  [gāo ěr fū qiú] L. Golf
(It’s supposed to sound like the English word for golf)
9. Tasty delightful  [kě kǒu kě lè] D. Coca-Cola
(It’s supposed to sound like the English word for Coca-Cola)
10. Three bright cure [sān míng zhì] O. Sandwich
(It’s supposed to sound like the English word for sandwich)

Was it as easy as you thought it would be to figure out which Chinese phrase matched up with the correct English phrase?  Let us know how you did—we promise we won’t post your results online!
Until next week,

Joel & Debbie

PRAY WITH US
Praise God for the good report Joel received from a pastor about the leadership training they attended last month.  This pastor was so encouraged by what she learned, they are now wanting to schedule another training class for lay workers in their local church.  PRAY that Joel would have wisdom in working with this local church and the trainers to find a suitable time for this training seminar.

PRAY for students at ICS whose families are going through times of conflict and turmoil.  PRAY that God’s Spirit would bring peace and healing to them during this holiday season.