By Jenny Fulton
This story was originally written in 2008 during my second year in China. It was the first narrative story I shared online and the first I submitted to the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. Though I did edit and revise it a little, it remains largely in its original state.
I share this now to remember the Chinese Christians who are still being persecuted for their faith in China.
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ChangChang frowned at the grade on her physics test. Tears of frustration and disappointment threatened to spill from her eyes. She had missed one question and received a 97%. This mistake would lower her ranking in the class and bring displeasure from her teacher and parents. Her parents had, after all, named her ChangChang – flourishing. She knew beyond a doubt they were hoping and expecting many great things from her.
As the bell rang, ChangChange sighed and put her test away. Once everyone else had left the room, she stood up and slowly made her way to the door.
The teacher stopped her on the way out. “Why did you miss that question, ChangChang? I’m very disappointed. From now on you need to study more and work harder. Next time, no mistakes. OK?”
ChangChang lowered her head and nodded an affirmation that she would perform better next time. Then she hurriedly left to find her friends among the throng of chattering high schoolers, most of whom who were eagerly discussing their weekend plans.
It didn’t take long for the friends to reunite. Not one among them was happy. And so, they lamented together and tried to console each other about their grades.
“Maybe we should get together over the weekend to study,” ZongYing suggested.
The rest of the girls agreed. Once plans were firmly in place, they dispersed with a “ming tian jian” to make their way home.
ChangChang’s driver arrived, and she left to face her parents.
“At least we’re going to a concert tonight,” she told herself, “so they won’t be able to act upset all night.”
It was December 20th, the Christmas Season for most of the foreigners. Here and there in various shops, ChangChang could see the laowai influence. Lights and garland decorated various stores, and some employees even wore the red and white Santa hats. Light-hearted, upbeat tunes occasionally drifted in through the car windows. ChangChang sank further down in her seat. She didn’t know what this concert would include, but she wasn’t sure she was in the mood to face a night filled with an empty, happy fairytale.
A couple of hours later, ChangChang and her parents walked into a festively decorated performance hall. Though her parents had expressed their disappointed as forcefully as she’d expected, they now talked animatedly with her dad’s foreign business partners who had invited them. Still not in the greatest of moods, ChangChang played her role as the model daughter to perfection.
After they were seated, ChangChang looked around in wonder at the pictures on the wall and the scene on stage. There was a wooden thing filled with hay, a bunch of people with wings and shining clothes, a bright star… It was unlike anything she’d seen in the stores. None of it made any sense.
The program began and, now very curious, she leaned forward in her seat. It was introduced by two high school students, one who appeared to be of western origin, the other who appeared to be of Chinese descent. They said this concert was to remember and celebrate the gift of God – a baby named Jesus.
Songs were sung in English by students of all ages while the lyrics were shown in Chinese on a large screen. A video with Chinese commentary was played. The two students at the beginning continued to introduce and transition the concert from one scene to the next.
As the night came to a close, everyone who had participated surrounded the hall and began to sing.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room…”
Unbeknownst to her, something had begun to change inside of ChangChang at the first song. Now, with the final song, she began to realize the greater importance of all she’d heard. A God had, for no other reason than love, given a great gift to people. This God hadn’t required human success from His son or demanded it from His followers. This Jesus had come to give and to love, expecting nothing, but giving everything.
Tears once again threatened to make themselves known. This time, however, she let them fall. They were no longer tears of disappointment and frustration, but tears of joy and of hope.