A Westerner reading this last sentence will probably frown. Why would someone have to choose to celebrate Christmas? It is normal. You just celebrate the Christmas. Everybody celebrate Christmas.
Well, I have not lived long enough in the USA to tell how much of the population celebrates Christmas. But the fact that I can get the lowest price on an airplane ticket and get on an almost empty airplane on Christmas Day tells a lot about the percentage of the American population that doesn’t celebrate Christmas.
Here in Africa, where I was born, people celebrate Christmas too. But not like Americans. I can say half of the population does celebrate Christmas, and half of the population doesn’t. I grew up in the second half.
The reason people in Africa wouldn’t celebrate Christmas are wide. They go from lack of money and poverty to political ideologies. Some people, and I can say a lot, would like to celebrate Christmas but just don’t have money for it. Some people believe and argue Christmas Day was invented by the capitalist to make us spend more money on their goodies. Others are simply afraid of witchcraft. It is commonly known in Africa that witches and adepts at black magic kill a lot more people during Christmas season. There is another group of people that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. And that group is found among Christians. You said Christians? Yes, I said Christians.
Here I am talking about strong believers. Not people joking with their faith. They follow the Bible and seek to live according to the Bible, which is the reason why they do not celebrate Christmas. The base of their Christmas denial is, there is no report of a Christmas celebration in the book of Acts of the Apostles. My parents joined a community church at a moment of their lives. And the leaders of that church were convinced Christmas was not a godly season, therefore should not be celebrated.
I have good memories of that church. I can say, it is one of the strongest churches I’ve seen in my whole life – people of integrity, living pure and holy lives. I really cherish the times and the life we shared as members of that church. And I am thankful for it is there that I met Jesus for the first time in my life. An elder of the church preached at a youth camp and told us about God’s judgment coming on earth. My God, he was passionate. And I was pretty scared to not go to hell.
As I grew up in the faith, and searching the Scripture to nourish my soul, the gospel of terror started to slowly give place to the gospel of love. I know my church didn’t mean that God was only a judge. It is just that, it happened that the gospel the Lord wanted me to hear at that time was about His judgment.
It took me some time to discover the God that loves me. The process was long. While in that process, I got married to a westerner. I knew in his tradition, Christmas season was a great time of the year but my beliefs and my knowledge about Christmas were still pretty strong. And all the warnings I’ve heard about Christmas celebration here and there as I was growing up were still resounding pretty loud in my ears. So our first Christmas together went like any other day of a daily routine.
Praise to the God Almighty who is love and compassion. My husband, who had an insight of my culture and background, was very patient with me. He didn’t criticize, didn’t say a word. He went to a Christmas service while I stayed home. Just as Jesus loved us, in spite of us always hurting him in one way or the other, his love for me didn’t fail. My husband wanted some Christmas atmosphere in the house, he wanted me to go to church with him on Christmas day, but I didn’t want to. He didn’t force me or yell at me, he just understood and kept loving me.
But slowly, in His sovereignty, God began to open my eyes to His love, through my husband’s love. As I saw how my husband was still loving me, and showing me love In spite of my entire attitude and my criticisms of his culture. If this is the way God loves us, then His love was probably so majestic! God’s love is romantic! The more I discover about His love, the more I want to know Him. And the more I want to tell about Him.
This is the reason I am living here in this small village. His love is the reason I am not pursuing a big or huge career in medicine. This is the reason, I chose to celebrate Christmas.
I know that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. I know some people in the 4th century argued about something and decided that Christmas should be celebrated. I know all that. But as I realized how much God’s love is big, and wide, I’ve chosen, to have a special time in the year where I will remember of His love’s story for the world and for me.
So here I am in this little village of Africa, where we serve. It is Christmas season and I just finished hanging out some Christmas lights on the porch of our humble house. I love it! I love the colors of the Christmas in our house. I inherited those colors and those decorations from a friend who used to live here and was going back to the USA. I am sitting on my desk now and writing this. I love the Christmas season.
I can’t wait for all the things we have planned for Christmas. We will have a present donation to kids of the village one week before Christmas. I will decorate the church with the ladies of the village for the Christmas service. The village choir, which I joined, is getting ready to practice for the Christmas service. They asked me to lead some of the practices.
I can’t wait to see all that. With the ladies of the village, I will have the opportunity to learn more about the culture here and to just talk to them. It is through those moments with them that I’ve been accepted by the community here and that I am no more a stranger to them. With the choir, I will lead the practice and I will tell about the story of the greatest love, humanity has ever known.
I can’t wait to attend the humble Christmas service we will have here at church for Christmas Eve. People that usually do not attend church, and sick people at the hospital will come to church for that service. At least, there, they will forget their loneliness for a time. And this is the part I like, they will hear about someone who is the best friend and who loves us like no one has ever done.
Last but not the least; I can’t wait for Christmas morning, when my hubby will hand something to me. And I will do the same for him…
I have encountered the God of Love. And I have met a man that showed me what love is. I just can’t pass Christmas time like that. I have to give back to others. Especially here in Africa, people need to hear about this love. God’s love made me chose to celebrate Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you – my American and African family!
This post is also available in: Français (French)