It’s a Christmas season like no other I’ve spent. And it’s come on the heels of two Christmas seasons that I’ll never forget.
Christmas 2017 finds me back in California after spending the the previous two in the villages of Uganda.
Holiday lights shine on homes nearby. Traffic backs up near shopping centers. The parking lots look pretty full as bargain-hunters make their pilgrimage to buy toys and gifts for loved ones. It’s a commercial tradition that begins earlier each year.
I am working at a big retailer. It’s a first for me to see the Christmas shopping scene up close.
Crowds come early. The aisles of toys, neatly prepared at the start of the day, are turned into busy avenues of decision-making before the popular attention-grabbers run out.
Parents discretely peak at their wish-lists. Kids often join them in the search for holiday cheer. Young ones play with whatever they can get their hands on then discard it wherever they may. This cultural exercise occurs hour after hour, day after day until it’s time to move on to the next secular holiday.
Ten thousand miles away it was a much calmer scene in the days before the savior’s birth.
While Christmas carols could occasionally be heard over the radio, decorated trees were few. In the homes where I stayed in 2015 and 2016 there were no gifts exchanged. The Ugandans I knew were not awaiting Santa Claus.
Fellowship and community are cultural mainstays in Africa. The celebration of the baby Jesus takes place in the form of worship, family gatherings and feasts.
It’s simple. It’s quiet. It’s Christmas.
Joy to the World the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king!
One of the things that has transformed me in recent years is the feeling of joy. In the past I felt inadequate or not worthy of such an expression. As I have grown, walking forward faithfully, I have experienced authentic joy.
For a season in my life, I was a very good mountain cyclist. There was a lot of joy descending Sierra passes that my buddies and I just climbed. I would shout to the Lord my joy and happiness. How great that feeling. And that was mine. I worked hard. I earned every bit of that.
As I found my work in Africa, a joy resonated from within me that has been impossible to contain. Being in the presence of God and beautiful people has given me a glimpse of heaven. There is joy and happiness, punctuated by poverty and pain, almost every day.
Today, with Evelyn in my life, there is a feeling of an everlasting joy with the most unlikely but perfect life mate.
I am happy. I feel joy. The Lord lives here.
May you experience the joy that comes from fellowship with the Lord and others.
Christmas in Africa. A heckuva lot different from any other I’ve spent. So much day-to-day existence it’s hard for me to see trappings of the season. A few decorated trees. Strains of “Joy To the World” heard now and again.
Am here in Kabale, Uganda, with my adopted family. Sons, daughters and grandchildren expected here over next few days. It’ll be noisy, perhaps chaotic…just like home in USA.
Been invited to a Christmas Day service at a small village church near Bwindi Gorilla Haven, our hotel project. Dirt floors, mud walls, loads of spirit and energy make up the worship space. I expect this to be a highlight event!
Got a card yesterday from my son, Dan, that made my day. Takes a bit of planning to get a card or gift here or there. Plan on two weeks.
My faith keeps me company this Christmas. So many memories and traditions that I’ve followed for decades.
This year am surrounded by friends and the unfamiliar, pleased with a playlist of Christmas carols.
Nohiri nungi. Merry Christmas.
Obusingye bube naiwe omu mwaka. Peace be with you in the new yea (Rukiga)
Krismasi. Amani na iwe nanyi katika mwaka mpya. Merry Christmas. Peace be with you in the new year. (Swahili)
Merry Christmas everyone!