Blessings Of The Season
By Nicholas Murray
As I write these few lines I’ve just taken down my Christmas decorations and put aside my Christmas cards. Both have decorated my apartment since well before Christmas and have served as useful topics of conversation and teaching aids for my students who regularly attend the office hours that are a requirement of our contract. We are expected to make ourselves available for at least two hours a week for what is often referred to as ‘free talk.’
Christmas may not yet hold a prominent place in Chinese thought but it certainly captures the attention of our students and often during this period I find myself invited to ‘tell us the Christmas story.’ How could anyone ignore such an exciting invitation! It is here that the beautiful religious-motif Christmas cards, which I’ve received from overseas and which now festoon my apartment windowsill and flat furniture tops, come into play. There is wonderful satisfaction to be gained from the rapt attention with which the students listen and afterwards ask their questions. I like to think that they go away with a little better understanding of the Christmas event and the place it plays in other cultures. Experience has shown that such efforts are not in vain.
The Christmas greetings that come from family, loved ones and friends, including my students, at this time of year have a special place in my affection and appreciation. However, this year, pride of place is taken by a simple but beautiful greeting I got from one of my third year students, not yet a Christian but a regular participant in the ‘free talk’ sessions. Here in China the ‘Season’s Greetings’ cards are quite simple, not the ready-made variety with verse and greeting inside, already composed. Here the sender has to compose the desired message, which in the case of my student was particularly touching. Here is what she wrote:
Christmas is coming round the corner, and I’ve been wondering how I could thank my dear teacher Nick enough, for the love, patience and just hard work that goes into guiding me. But I don’t know, dear God, except to ask you to bless him as richly as he deserves. He is a really wonderful person. I am glad I am a student of him. I wish him to be healthy, wealthy and happy forever. Dear God, please make my above wishes come into being.
That’s all I want for him.
When I read this over the phone during the Christmas for my sister in Ireland, herself a teacher, she said, ‘You’d better stay out there in China because you’ll get nothing like that here!’ Yes, we too have much to learn.