A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
It is hard to believe that Christmas is again upon us. Here in Taipei students are heading toward the end of the semester, churches are busy planning outreach events, and we are looking forward to the twins’ baptism on Christmas. Christmas here is a lot less frantic. There’s no Black Friday, no Digital Monday, after Thanksgiving, no lines at the stores. There will still be an array of plastic Santa Clauses, but not on the scale we see back in the States. Churches also are more able to direct their time and energy toward the season. I read in the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan news that a presbytery is arranging a Christmas parade as an outreach event, and the church we attend here has a Christmas night banquet designed to encourage people to bring friends. Churches tend to focus on Christmas as a time for outreach. I admire the peace of this season; there is still a lot of activity, but it feels more quietly focused.
This is our third Christmas in a row in Taipei, and it is truly our home. Emily's parents are visiting, so we have a lot of help with the twins, and our 3-year-old, Sam, is getting extra time from them (he went to the zoo over the weekend). On the home front, one of our twins, Eli, has gone from power crawling and standing to a full-on walk. He can get from one side of our apartment to the other without stumbling. He looks a bit like a penguin at this point, but clearly he's found his feet. Eva seems to be doing well also. She can say her first Chinese word “pai pai” (“clap”). She has expressive hands and enjoys clapping. The visit from Emily’s parents is a real treat; we realized this is the first time they’ve visited us in the last four or five years when they weren’t either helping us move or caring for newborns. It has been an exciting few years.
This week the PC(USA)'s new Asia director, Mienda Uriarte, and the PC(USA)’s director of international evangelism, Michael Parker, are coming for a visit. We look forward to seeing them and are grateful for the care and support that they give. Seminary life is keeping us busy. December sees us starting to plan the next semester's classes. For the first time I'll teach a course for D.Min. students. I'm excited to be working with pastors and I know I’ll profit from their experience. Last week we had a thesis proposal defense from a student from Southeast Asia who is writing on preaching. It is a challenging project for him, but he has come a long way, and I hope his time in Taiwan will be a help to him in his future work. These months have also been full of smaller responsibilities: retreats, preaching, a gathering of different seminaries, campus events, and so on.
Christmas is a time when we emphasize the mystery of God become human. The new Presbyterian Church of Taiwan hymnal has a hymn, “One evening so quiet,” written by a famous pastor who was for many years a prisoner, Rev. Ko Chun-beng. Rev. Ko evokes the first night when Jesus was born.
On a clear and quiet night, the Lord Jesus was born,
The cute face, resting in a horse’s manger;
Shepherds brought their young sheep close by, and entered the sheep’s barn,
They offered their sheep, showing their love.
At Christmas we remember the peace that came to this world, born in a manger, and visited by shepherds tending to their flocks. We remember the offerings shepherds and sages brought to an infant. May you also share in the deep mystery and peace of Christmas.
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 153
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 205