I hope you all had a great Christmas! I enjoyed my first Christmas in Japan, but the white Christmas I thought I would be getting never came. It snowed the first day I got to Izumo, but we haven't seen any snow since then. Oh well, better luck next year, right? The Christmas parties we had were definitely the opposite of disappointing, though. We first went to Okayama for our mission Christmas party, and I got to see my past companion, Madruga chourou, as well as Pagel chourou and Jones chourou, who came to Japan with me. We had an awesome time seeing all the missionaries perform their various talents. There were some awesome performances, but I have to say the night was highlighted by two performances, one with our mission president singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", and the second one a missionary playing her "nose trumpet". (you'd have to see it to believe it, quite an enlightening experience).
After that, we returned home and immediately began to prepare for the branch Christmas party. Everyone brought some type of food for dinner, and we had a giant potluck. It was absolutely delicious, one member even made eggnog from scratch! At the end of the party, Santa made an appearance, and everyone got to see him but my companion, who had to "go to the bathroom" right before Santa appeared. Santa brought a small bag of treats for everyone that came to the party, but then had to return to Finland (I guess that is where Japanese kids think that is where Santa is from).
It was fun to celebrate Christmas with these parties, but it was even better to remember the reason why we have Christmas in the first place. I know that it is because of Jesus Christ that we are able to look to the future with joy and happiness. I know that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that He loves each and every one of us. If we will only follow Him and strive to become like Him, we can become more and progress more than we ever would have thought possible. I know these things are true, and I love this gospel so much.