Changes, Candles, and Ceviche

Changes, Candles, and Ceviche

The month of December has held many different seasons for me, both literally and figuratively.

There are the “perfect” island childhood memories of:

  • Night drives to Advent services. The Henrich kids would always have competitions to see who could count the most Christmas lights/trees. We especially loved when Dad drove downtown on our way home so that we could score extra lights from the stores.
  • Fighting over the leftover wax from the Advent candles after church. (Man, we were weird) We loved to play with the wax to see who could make a perfect cube out of it.
  • Listening to Dad’s CDs: Sandy Patty Christmas, Father Ho Lung, Calypso Christmas, etc.
  • Baking Christmas cookies! We shared baking days with mom making all our favorite cookies. Mine were the candy cane cookies, peanut butter balls, and Hersey kiss cookies. The missionary families would always exchange plates of their specialties.
  • Decorating the tree and setting up the manger scene. I have no clue when it happened, but at one point in time I took over setting up the tree duties. I LOVED putting on the lights but “kindly” allowed sisters and brother to help me with the ornaments. We set up the manger scene by taking out the wrapped up pieces one by one. Suspiciously, sister Erin always got the prized baby Jesus…. hmmm.
  • and of course the anxious waiting for Christmas Eve which meant presents time and the special reserved cookies that had been hidden in the freezer.

Then there are the Christmas’ that weren’t quite as fun. Some filled with culture shock and the sadness that surrounds cancer. Some were Wisconsin cold, and some were just plain different! There were no more Steel Pan Christmas Carols or “Polar Plunges” in the warm Caribbean Sea. We were now too old to play with wax, and we lived directly behind the church so there were no special trips to look at the lights. Those Christmas’ were my first taste of the reality that Christmas would not always stay the same.

Then came the “new traditions” years of Christmas musicals, significant others, weddings, special family trips, and now a niece, nephews, and a little sister who is big enough to escape her crib! In fact, in our almost 5 Christmas’ spent together, Jon and I have had a Christmas tree only once. We just have never seen the point because Christmas’ have been spent traveling to spend time with family.

Now, here I am in Chile, typing this blog in shorts and a tank top with Christmas around the corner. There is not a single Christmas decoration in our house! Many are packed in boxes in my cousin’s basement back in Wisconsin. We did consider getting a tree this year, but the prices are a little insane and the reality that our dog Pudú will eat it is around 99%. Don’t feel bad for us though! Jenny’s house is a magical Christmas wonderland and whenever we need some Christmas spirit we head over there to get filled up. (:

Christmas seasons have held different types of weather, different traditions, different joys and different heartaches. Over time, I have slowly learned to embrace and even to love the diversity and changes that each year brings.

More importantly, amidst the changes of life, I have learned to truly treasure the one thing that has remained constant and will always remain constant: celebrating our Savior who came into this world to win us true joy no matter what life throws our way. His grace is our constant. His love is our constant. The reality of His sacrifice centers us. It reminds us that while traditions may change, our salvation through Him never will.

Although I can’t always sit in the warm sun on a beach during the Christmas holidays, I can always bask in the warm reminder and reassurance of His love and faithfulness that Christmas brings – That’s a good Christmas tradition!

This year, we ushered in the Christmas season with a special Advent by Candlelight service!

Jenny worked really hard to translate the Advent by Candlelight service sent out by the WELS into Spanish with one of our good friends and language master, Johanna. Ariel and Jon brought tables and benches from the church to our house, and I prepared the music and decorations.

The warm weather and a covered patio made a perfect spot to make a big family-style table. People started to arrive around 8 pm. We hung out in the backyard until it was dark enough to light the candles. As male church members arrived, Jon handed them the program with highlighted sections to read. At one point there were 5 men in isolated corners of the house practicing their parts! (:
The service was filled with readings, prayers, and songs that centered on how God’s light guided the wise men and how He continues to guide us today. There were about 25 people that came and 7 were visitors!
After the service, we passed around the food that everyone brought to share. In true Chilean fashion, there were a lot of breads/cakes including special Christmas Bread (basically a fruit cake). A favorite was the ceviche brought by our friends from school. They even left a bowl just for us in our fridge. YUM!

Praising God for another year, another Christmas, and the reminder of His never-failing love given to us in the form of a little baby.

Blessed Advent and Merry Almost Christmas!



2 thoughts on “Changes, Candles, and Ceviche

  1. Dave & Jacky Kopplin

    Very nice to read your reminiscences of Christmas past and this years advent celebration. Also visiting with your family at Christmas time in Wisconsin. Dave and Jacky.


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