Christmas Eve was marvelous for us thanks to the surprising help of two kind Chinese people in Macao, total strangers, who showed us the goodness that I have found so many times among Chinese people all over the world (and people in general, to be fair). We were trying to attend a Catholic event to enjoy some beautiful religious Christmas music, but we weren’t paying enough attention as the cabbie dropped us off at the wrong church, an isolated, dark one far from roads where we could hope to find a new taxi. He drove off before we realized his mistake.
There was nobody within sight except a security guard sequestered in a little guard post unable to speak much Mandarin and a young couple, I think married, apparently there to enjoy the beautiful view from that hill. The guard told us nothing useful, but as we wandered past the couple, we asked where to go to find a taxi and got the discouraging news that we’d have to walk a long ways down the hill and beyond. We were just starting our journey down the long dark road, realizing we might miss the service we wanted to attend, when they came over to us and said they were going to drive us to the right place. So kind!
We were total strangers, but they volunteered their time and their car to help us get to our destination. As they neared the cathedral, we saw and heard the musical celebration that had just begun in a bright, crowded plaza, but with an ideal spot for us to watch. We experienced many beautiful hymns tonight. We were so touched with gratitude for the kindness that rescued us from being lost and wandering on a gloomy, remote path and instead took us to a bright and joyous place ringing with sacred hymns.
Interestingly, the square was about 200 meters away from the cathedral, but right next to an aptly named building: “Santa Casa da Misericordia” — the Holy House of Mercy. We felt blessed with undeserved mercy in being able to partake of that musical celebration after our own inattention (and a cabbie’s sloppiness) got us so far from our destination.
In a tiny way, what happened to us has parallels to the Christmas message itself and the way Christ seeks to rescue each of us from our lost state and our own dark journeys to bring us back into light and joy, to the destination He wants us to find. I hope I will never forget the sweet impact of the kindness of these strangers, and hope I can find ways to help strangers in need as well.
Background: Having just spent a lot of time with family in the US recently and since we are going back in a few months when it will be easier to get together, this year we stayed in greater China for Christmas. An often overlooked part of China is the tiny region of Macao, known to many Americans only for its gambling. We hate gambling (though I do have some money in the stock market), but I love the charm, beauty, and food of Macao. Since it’s now very cheap to visit due to concerns over disturbances next door in Hong Kong, I wanted to bring my wife and show her what I found here on a business trip in the past where I was invited to speak at a conference on intellectual property strategy.
For Christmas Eve, our plan was to take a taxi to the main island of Macao and attend a mass at a Catholic cathedral or an event in the plaza nearby in order to experience beautiful religious Christmas music. It worked out so well, through the miracle of selfless service from two Chinese strangers, and the love of so many good Catholic people sharing their musical gifts with us and a large crowd tonight. I especially appreciated the woman who hosted the program and gave little spiritual thoughts about Christ between many of the musical performances. Some beautiful preaching from a faithful and enthusiastic Christian woman.
Please accept this belated “Merry Christmas” from China and Macao!