In Lima, Peru this was was where Christmas made its D-Day landing. Peru was the home of the Shining Path and the MRTA, militant groups who, along with government forces, clashed throughout both the rural Andean villages as well as urban Lima. Only 15 years earlier, loud noises in the night could be explosions in shopping centers, gunbattles in the suburbs or people simply disappearing. Though gangs still roamed the streets, a holy limeñian night had changed a lot, especially in this Christmas season.
Extended host family had come in from across the country. All afternoon, we had prepared the traditional turkey (sliced up, marinated in a red sauce and baked), the panetone and even some champagne. It had been great working in the kitchen with three generations of my host family along with Erika, the woman who would become my wife. We'd made the meal, including a delivery of propane at 9pm on Christmas Eve. The biggest moment came when the clock struck midnight.
I was sitting at the dining room table with my family, talking about politics or soap operas when the sound of loud noises rung out. At first Erika and I were startled, but when everyone smiled and talked about the fireworks, we ran up to the roof. The scene that greeted us looked to us more like the night-vision videos from invasions than a celebration. But, the random cheers, the loud cumbia music and the fireworks pointed me away from the fear, violence and pain that come from war, and toward the joy, laughter and light of the coming Christ.
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Now, when I stand holding a candle in a quiet church on Christmas eve, a big part of me wishes I was holding a bottle rocket. It even seems more biblical, that even if it's just for a few seconds, I'm adding a star in the heavens to guide all into his birth.
Since returning from Peru in 2010, Joe has been working at Big Fish Games and is a budding wedding and event photographer with his JTobiason Photography business. He recently married Erika Trott, lives in Ballard, bikes to work and is a member of the Krista Foundation's Colleague Council.