Last week, the only sign of Christmas (other than the homemade snowflakes hung to decorate the house) was Ella Fitzgerald crooning “Let it Snow!” on my iPod…which just seems wrong since the weather outside is frightfully hot.
But today, Christmas is here…whether or not I can see any visible sign. On the surface level, this Congolese Christmas feels foreign, so far from all I know Christmas to be. At the same time though, it is exactly what I know. The underlying and foundational message transcends culture, continent, and language. The message of God’s Son sent to Earth to save us from ourselves.
Congo allows me to experience this message more clearly than ever before. Nothing clouds or distracts from the birth of Christ which is honored first and foremost. Congo has no newspapers or magazines to advertise the best gifts of the season. There are no shopping centers, no Christmas decorations, no presents wrapped beneath an evergreen tree, no postal service to send Christmas cards, no stockings full of candy, and no Christmas feast with family.
The absence of distractions allows me to experience Christmas as it was intended. Seeking God in silence and allowing thankfulness to flow freely from my heart in response to God’s glorious gift. The Congolese refrain from all work on this day and the Christians celebrate with utmost reverence. They dwell in the promise of God’s presence, Immanuel, and bask in the light of His Glory.
Although I yearn for the presence of my family and friends, carols sung round the fire, and snow (okay, maybe not the shoveling part), I am enjoying a renewed appreciation for Christ’s birth. Perhaps God had to physically remove me from the many distractions in America for me to truly understand the gravity of His sacrifice.
“For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:30-32