Rejoicing at sunset: Christmas in Chile
Posted on: 22nd December 2022
CMS missionary Chris Overhall serves with Stef and their three children in Santiago, Chile. Here, he explains how Chilean Christmas celebrations differ from Australian traditions, and tells the story of a very significant Christmas for his friend Diego.
“We’ll sing together, hear from the Bible, have a special focus for children, and rejoice as the sun goes down that Christ came into the world to save sinners.”
OK, let’s start with a pretty easy question, what’s the date of Christmas? “25th December”, I hear you say. OK then, what day do you celebrate Christmas? “25th December”, I hear you say again! Well, that may be true, unless you live in Chile.*
We celebrate Christmas here during the night of the 24th. People finish work early on the 24th and get together with their families for a meal and to celebrate. 25th December in Chile feels much more like the Boxing Day public holiday than what we are used to on the 25th in Australia.
So how do we celebrate Christmas in Chile?
Normally food and family are involved, and, of course, a very late night! This year we have been invited to celebrate the birth of Jesus with some dear Venezuelan friends from our church. We will go to their apartment and eat delicious food, stay up really late, and at midnight we will give and receive presents.
This is a whole family event, which means children are involved. Our kids normally go to bed at 8:00pm (not very Chilean at all) and so this means that on the 25th we will sleep in. Normally there are no church services on the 25th in our church. However, this year is a little different, because the 25th December falls on a Sunday, so, we will have a church service at which Chris will preach from 1 John 1:1-4.
Accordingly, when in Australia you are enjoying your church service or lunch with family on the 25th, due to the 14-hour time difference, please remember us as we gather on the 24th to eat delicious Venezuelan food all while seeking to encourage our dear friends with the news of the birth of the Saviour.
How does our local church preach Christ at Christmas?
During December our local church will have a sermon series focusing on the Nativity and birth of Jesus. We will seek to draw from the gospel accounts how Jesus’ birth connects with the Old Testament promise and changes the course of human history.
We also have an event that we call Navidad en mi barrio (Christmas in my suburb) on the 23rd of December. This event is especially focused on inviting people to come along and hear about how Jesus’ birth changes everything. We’ll sing together, hear from the Bible, have a special focus for children, and rejoice as the sun goes down that Christ came into the world to save sinners.
The story of Diego, who came to Christ during Christmas
For one friend, Diego, this event changed the course of his life. In 2017 Diego was invited to come along to the event. He had grown up hearing about Jesus but would not have called himself a Christian. At the event he heard about how Christ was born into the world to rescue sinners and over the course of the night God rescued Diego! He is now a key member of our church, involved in serving in many and varied ways, growing as a disciple of Jesus.
*Editor’s note: or many other parts of the world including much of Europe!
Please pray that this story will become the story of many others from our suburb. Ask that God would use the Navidad en mi barrio event on 23 December to bring new people to faith in Christ.