Well, I'm home! The past week has been a whirlwind of preparations for Christmas, and sometimes I still can't quite accept the fact that I'm home. I'm no longer in Hong Kong; I'm no longer a full-time missionary. The work will continue, but I won't be there for it. The adjustment is hard. Sometimes I make little comments in Chinese that no one understands. There are times when I just wander around the house, wondering what to do. I'll turn on a song and then turn it off five seconds later because it reminds me of the time before my mission and it makes me feel uncomfortable. But what a blessing it is to come home at Christmas! And what a blessing to be surrounded by the people that I love the most.
I've been meaning to share a special moment I had on my last night in Hong Kong, but, as usual, I'm struggling to put it into words! I'll try my best. President and Sister Hawks took all of us departing missionaries to Victoria Peak over on Hong Kong Island. After dinner, we walked a ways to a quiet stretch of road overlooking the city. It was dark and cold and windy, so few people were around. We stood there, lined up against the railing, talking and reminiscing; but after several minutes, conversation gave way to silence, and a reverence came over us all as we pondered all that had happened to us here in Hong Kong.
As we looked over the city, the millions of dots of light, I thought about the people that each light represented. I thought of the 7 million people in Hong Kong, the vast majority of whom I've never met. I thought of the people I had met, whose lives I've influenced and who've influenced my life. My heart felt a deep sense of completion, of mourning, and of gratitude--the feeling was heavy and surreal. Without really thinking, I broke the silence with something like, "We should sing." So there we were, a small group of old, tired missionaries, singing Silent Night to an entire city of people whom we loved, people who were going about their lives, quite as usual, completely unaware of the sacred moment taking place 1800 feet above them. I've sung that song a hundred times, and will likely sing it hundreds more throughout my life, but never will it be quite as beautiful or poignant as that time on the Peak.
That song seemed to put into words our whole reason for being there, the reason for all that has happened to me in the past 18 months. It all comes back to the birth of our Savior. Christ, the Savior is born--the dawn of redeeming grace. Because of the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hope is kindled. We can hope for change, for a better world, for the future. We can hope that good will win and that light will overcome darkness. Luke 1:78-79 says, "The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Let me tell you, very rarely were the nights silent in this bustling, loud, bright city. As we walked back to catch the bus, I thought about Bethlehem and what it must have been like on that night when Christ was born. It was probably much like Hong Kong in some ways--filled with people from all over, each with their own problems, their own reasons for being there. Most were likely unaware of the miracle that was taking place within their city walls. But that miracle would change their lives if they'd let it. And that miracle, the humble birth of the Redeemer of the world, can change our lives, if we let it. Believe me, it is changing mine. It doesn't matter where we have been or how dark it seems right now, because when we let Christ change us, the future will be filled with light and hope and heavenly peace.