16 December 2012

This week has been Christmas for us.

Sunday we attended the Stake Christmas pageant. The young men and young women of the stake put together a performance of the Christmas story as told in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The musical performances were great and the Christmas spirit filled the building. 

Monday the Senior Missionaries met at President and Sister Swapp’s home--they let us come and help wrap 180 gifts for the young missionaries. They had stunning red poinsettias inside and out, a lovely nativity, Christmas touches everywhere, a yummy supper and carols playing. It was so much fun to be part of the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations and to be able to do it for these sweet people who will be away from their family for five Christmases. The Swapp’s were serving as Senior Missionary Coordinators in the Dominican Republic when they were called as Mission Presidents in Monterrey, Mexico. We played a fun game of concentration where we had to match up the symbols of the Christmas story with candy that “matched” the symbol. For instance, M&Ms represented Mother Mary and Three Musketeers represented the three wise men. 

Tuesday we arrived at the temple to find the gardens full of beautiful red “Noche Buenas” (poinsettias). They are native to Mexico and are used prolifically here during the holidays. There are even Noche Buenas on and around the life-size nativity scene in front of the temple. 


There is a legend here in Mexico about how the Noche Buena came to be: 

Once upon a time in Mexico, a little boy was walking to church to see the Nativity scene. He thought hard about a gift to bring the Christ child, but had no money to buy one. Jesus will understand, thought the little boy stopping to gather a few bare weedy branches lying at the side of the dusty road, because my gift will be given with love.
When the little boy reached his destination, people already in the church turned to see what gift he had brought. When they saw the bare branches, they laughed at him.
As the little boy trudged up to the altar and laid the branches by the edge of the manger, there suddenly began to bloom an abundance of bright red flowers. (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia/facts.cfm)

Wednesday nearly 40 missionaries from the West Mission arrived by bus, taxi and foot at 7:00 a.m. for one of the temple sessions. The missionaries from this mission usually come twice a month, leaving their apartments often before 5:00 a.m. in order to arrive on time. It is my favorite session! These missionaries, both Elders and Sisters, arrive sleepy and harried, but full of love and with the joy of their service shining in their eyes. It is wonderful to see the light and happiness that they bring into the lives of people and families who embrace the gospel. 

Thursday we walked down to a nearby mall to check out the restaurants (we called it exercise!). There are about a dozen to choose from--one of which, Johnny Rocket’s, had just opened that day. Yes, we can eat the same food here that we have in Farmington, if we choose to--and we just might. 

Mexican version of "Wingers" 
Yes, the real Johnny Rockets!

Friday was the Campestre Ward Christmas party--and what a party it was! The program was put on by Young Women and children from the primary. They danced and sang and laughed, with a side-show by the “extra children” who ran races and did improv dances in between to the music of the DJ. There were appetizers to start and then the real food started coming out of the kitchen: hard-boiled quail eggs, refried pinto beans, macaroni and ham salad, tossed salad, chicken in green enchilada sauce, beef (arracheta) in beef gravy with vegetables, Mexican rice, sliced French bread and tortillas. Wow, it was yummy! We finished that off and then turned to the dessert table--and there are not words to describe the lovely things that were offered there. The whole arrangement was quite clever: the priesthood brought the beverages, the Relief Society had a dessert baking contest, and the other ward made the dinner. Our ward will return the favor for them next week. 

Saturday we were up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be at the temple by 5:30 to help get ready for the 6:00 session. When we arrived, there were already 5 large buses parked and more than a hundred people wandering around or lining up to get into the temple. When we left at 1:30, there were 17 buses parked behind the temple. Most of them had traveled all night to get there. It is so touching to see the way they serve each other, both in and out of the temple. There are youth that do baptisms for the dead and then help tend little children while the parents are in the temple. Adults take turns on sessions so that the children who will be sealed to their parents are cared for. It is about as close as we get in this day and age to seeing the Law of Consecration in action. 

Sunday John and Linda spoke in church. Linda on “Hope in Jesus Christ” and John on “Prophecies of Christ’s Birth.” There were two musical numbers that were amazing. The first was a husband and wife and two small children--maybe grandchildren. The closing hymn was sung by the primary children who all wore white shirts or blouses and had Christmasy scarves around their necks. There have never been better behaved or more beautiful children! Their singing just completely melted us. The reaction to the talks was interesting. The other missionary fellow that works with us was approached by a member and congratulated on his talk. We figure one missionary is as good as another, or, one fat, bald, gringo geezer is as good as another.

There is no snow. Some of the best carols go unsung. But Christmas has come to us, even in Monterrey. 

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