International Ministries

Merry Christmas from Ruth Mooney - December 2013

January 20, 2014 Journal
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Merry Christmas from Ruth Mooney 


December 2013


Dear friends,


It might have happened like this:


Martha welcomed Jesus and his disciples into her home. She had a sister named Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?" And Jesus said, "Guys, come on. Martha needs help in the kitchen. We can talk after dinner when Martha can join us."


  It did happen a bit like that yesterday. I was invited to a tamale dinner, a sure sign in Costa Rica that Christmas is around the corner. By the time I arrived at 3:00, the corn had already been cooked and ground, the masa (cornmeal) prepared by the secret family recipe and set over the wood fire to cook.


Meanwhile, while some people cut the banana leaves, others washed them.


Soon the first pot of masa was ready and we began the assembly line to form the tamales. As you can see in the picture, each pair of leaves received:



a spoonful of masa

a spoonful of rice

grated carrot

2 strips of sweet red pepper

2 green beans

5 peas

5 chickpeas (garbanzos)

a piece of pork

a piece of chicken



Then the leaves were folded around the mixture and tied in pairs, to be placed in boiling water over the wood fire to cook for 2 hours.


We prepared 200 tamales, with the help of some 20 people, men and women, children and youth, ranging from 2 to 91 years old, all helping out in their specialized tasks.


  Between the first and second pot, we stopped to enjoy a cafecito, coffee with fresh bread and homemade jam.


By the time the tamales were ready, the doorbell began to ring and the people poured in, all the neighbors and friends eager to enjoy a Christmas tamale. There must have been 50 people, and we were kept busy washing plates for the newcomers. The house was full of laughter and celebration.


What symbolizes Christmas in Costa Rica? Tamales. Tamales, that represent family and community feasting together, celebrating that God in Jesus joins us at the table, that we experience God's love and mercy through the loving presence of those around us. Jesus, donning an apron to help Martha with the dinner.


Perhaps if one of the three Wise Men had been Costa Rican, he would have brought Jesus a tamale, made by the entire community, as the most worthy gift for a King!


¡Feliz Navidad!


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