Advent Devotional: God Came to Our Neighborhood

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish (John 1:14 The Message).

In August 1996 our family moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Győr, Hungary, as Free Methodist missionaries. First goals included enrolling the three kids in Hungarian school and starting full time Hungarian lessons for my husband and me. We quickly realized the truth of the fact that Hungarian is one of the world’s most difficult languages.

We learned that St. Nicholas goes to homes and schools on December 6. Later that December a distressed neighbor informed us that our Christmas tree was up too early. “Little Jesus and the Angels” bring the fully decorated tree and all the presents on Holy Night—December 24. Her son saw our tree in the window and thought he’d missed Christmas! In those dark, winter days in December 1996, we realized even more how great a cultural change we were facing. It was discouraging and frankly, very hard.

The Christmas concert for our children’s school choirs was traditionally held in the town’s 15th-century cathedral. We kept our coats on (no heating) and craned our necks to see the choirs. That concert marked a turning point for my husband and me. The mystery and joy of Christmas was evident and powerful to us, even though we didn’t know the words of the ancient Hungarian carols. God is with us–Emmanuel. He entered our world, entered the neighborhood, and He asks us to do the same.

Jan Coleman and her husband, Jerry, were Free Methodist missionaries in Europe until September 2013 when they moved to Wilmore. Their three grown children are scattered around the globe.