Tag Archives: Fireworks

How To Celebrate Christmas in Guatemala and the Meaning of Christmas

By Brendan Scott

Last year I learned the meaning of Christmas.  I spent Christmas 2010 in Guatemala, away from the snow of Colorado and more importantly away from my family.  Guatemala, or at least my home city of Xela, doesn’t celebrate Christmas the way most of the world celebrates the birth of Christ.  Sure at the Inter-American School, where I worked, we had a Christmas Play.  Last year the elementary performed the well known play Izzy Saves Christmas, where Izzy the mouse saves Christmas.  Haven’t heard of it?  Well, it’s a Guatemalan staple, or it is now.

I also taught my students what the best kind of Christmas party is; a White Elephant Party.  Who doesn’t want to go home with an alarm clock in a country where it is better to use your cellphone as an alarm at night, because anything plugged into the wall just might lose power.

But where Guatemala, and especially Xela, differs from Christmas in the United States is Christmas Eve.  Growing up as a Presbyterian Pastor’s kid, in the United States my family’s Christmas tradition centered around our church’s Christmas Eve service.  Every year, especially when I was younger, my mom would force me into my Christmas best, drive me and my sisters to church, and we would light the Christ Candle.  As I documented last year in my blog I’ll Be Home For Christmas my family always had the misfortune of lighting the Christ Candle, which never went smoothly.  I fought with my sister in front of 1,000 plus people who’d come to church expecting to hear how Christ came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.  The next year they expected something else, and I did not fail them.   I dropped a lit match on the carpet floor.  Fortunately the church didn’t burn down.

I did not have to light the Christ Candle for Christmas Eve in Xela.  I was a spectator, surrounded by friends and Guatemalan families who had come to celebrate Christ’s birth.  As much as I missed being with my family last year I enjoyed witnessing how the Latin culture celebrates Christmas.  My favorite part of the service at Saint Mark’s was the Posada.  A handful of kids marched into the church dressed as Guatemalan Marias and Joses with sumbreros and mustaches followed by a very Guatemalan baby Jesus Cristo.

Shortly after the service, after I had sung my share of Spanish Christmas Carols I headed back to my house with Skyy, his mom Susan, Jen (co-worker), Blake and Amy (co-workers), Blake’s family, and Holland (another co-worker) and his boys to set off fireworks.  Ask anyone in Guatemala and they will tell you setting off fireworks is the real reason for the season.  I may have spent upwards of twenty dollars on fireworks, which didn’t even match what Skyy (one of my student’s whose house I lived at) spent.  Us guys took the next couple of hours detonating our ammunition.  At midnight Xela sounded as if it were under attack, the entire city lit up like the large Christ Candle.

Christmas Eve has aways been family time for me, quiet and relaxing (after the Christmas Eve service at least).  This year I plan on watching “How Earnest Saved Christmas” with my two sisters.  I look forward to waking up on Christmas morning and being with my family.  But I will always remember how much fun I had lighting off fireworks and celebrating my savior’s birth with people my Guatemalan family.

Christmas is not about what you do, what you give or what you get, but in the end it is about enjoying the birth of Christ with those who are around you.  No matter where you are.  Last year on Christmas day Donna and Laurel McMarlin (Laurel was one of my co-workers) welcomed me into their family and shared their Christmas with me.  They helped make what could have been a lonely day, a day full of love and celebration, which made for a perfect Christmas.


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The Signing of The Declaration of Dependence

Last Sunday the United States celebrated her two-hundred and thirty-fourth birthday. Though significant, the U.S. is still wearing diapers compared to other nations. Egypt is somewhere around 5,000 years old, Germany dates back to 190A.D. and France is over 1,000 years old.

With such a brief but remarkable history, how is it then that when the Marist Poll asked 1,004 U.S. residents, “From which country did the United States win its independence?” an alarming 26% had no clue?

Is education in the U.S. to blame? Or revisionist history, or bad parenting, or lazy students, or political correctness, or too much information? Yes. And more.

Mostly though, remembering is hard work. But important. And remembering our spiritual history more so. Read on.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4

Acts 24:1-27

Psalm 4:1-8

Proverbs 18:16-18


1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” Paul tells Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16).

“Does he means all those hard to follow genealogies too?” I can just hear Timothy ask his friend Titus. “What are those about?”

Though there may not be a verse here worthy of pasting on your bathroom mirror or committing to memory, God is still attempting to communicate with us, even here. For the ancient Hebrews many of these names were attached to stories: stories of brokenness, of faithfulness, of hardship, joy, life, death, God. God touched each of these people whether they responded positively to that touch or not. Unfortunately we know only few of those stories.

Unlike other parts of Scripture, this is not poetry; this is reality. The reality is that God guided history from  “Caleb son of Hezron” all the way down to you. What’s your story?

Acts 24:1-27: Luke was one of the most accurate of ancient historians. Here is a treasure trove of historical detail. Interesting but to what purpose? Two reasons come to mind. First, as with Chronicles, we can see God superintending history and building Christ’s church through Paul’s story. Second, while a persecuted prisoner, Paul is granted audiences with some of the most powerful people in the world. Paul wastes not a minute and tells each the remarkable story of Jesus. Luke records two aspects of history here: factual details and a spiritual history of Paul’s persecution and pain being turned into a better story.

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We’ve all heard it said that, “those who can’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.” Been there, done that. Remembering history, however, holds more value than keeping us from looping back to the same old mistakes. Especially since many of us stumble into the same holes again, despite that we remember the last trip all too well. History is much more than a danger ahead sign.

Biblical history in particular is a genogram: “a graphic representation of the personalities and interplay within a family, used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior.” (Webster’s Unabridged) Biblical history is a graphic representation of who we are and who God is.

Our repetitive patterns are those of disobedience an destruction right along side glory and goodness. David begat the rebellious Absalom from a lawful wife and obedient Solomon unlawfully. Is this not a picture of me and you?

And who is God? God is the One who responds with reproof, correction, long-suffering and mercy.

Chronicles is our genealogy, our family, warts and all. Then Acts shows us God’s response, our story. Just as God’s children did in the past, the Jews tried to kill God’s messenger, Paul. Yet God, just as he did in the past, protects, guides, speaks and through a powerful mercy–in the end–overcomes. This is our story, then and now.

Could you and I write a “chronicle” of the names of the people (and remember their stories) God used in our lives? Could you and I write a history retelling the detailed facts and spiritual history of God’s “acts” in our lives?

Remembering is hard work. But important.

It’s a shame 26% of Americans can’t remember the details of the birth of their own nation. I wonder if other civilizations such as Egypt also suffer from a similar historical amnesia? Probably.

I suspect that many of us who live in God’s kingdom, have developed amnesia about our spiritual birth both as a people and as individuals.

For Americans the Fourth of July is a day to remember our “Declaration of Independence” from England. What if we the people of Christ took the Sixth of July to remember all God has done for us? And then with fireworks blazing overhead we all sign a “Declaration of Dependence,” a dependence on a faithful, loving God.

  1. Which reading spoke to you?
  2. Who are your spiritual ancestors?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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