He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:10-12 (NLT)
This year Gerald and I are definitely experiencing weather that could be considered more “in tune” with the traditional Christmas season. I am reminded of past Christmases spent in other parts of the world – a Christmas picnic in the Judean desert in lovely mild temperatures (surprising, but then not long after, it actually snowed!); a Christmas party in tropical Mexico that suffered a very rare “norther” with temperatures almost reaching freezing; and of course, cold, wet evenings fighting the wind as I hurried to a Christmas celebration in England. My time in Texas included Christmases with temperatures in the 70s – and yet also other years with them in the low 30s. I have to admit that hurrying through bitterly cold wind and dark nights to celebrate with loved ones seems to make the twinkling Christmas lights more wonderful, and the warm, decorated homes more friendly and full of cheer. It might take me a while to adjust if I celebrated by lazing on a beach with a bar-b-q as my friends in Australia may be doing!
Wherever we live, we tend to develop our own special Christmas traditions – yet as children grow up and families move away, we are forced to change these cherished traditions. Sometimes we may struggle with this, but the one solid unchangeable truth is the Christmas Story. God reached down to earth by sending His own son to become flesh and live among mankind. He TRULY came to challenge traditions and bring change! The routine work of the shepherds was interrupted by a blinding light and heavenly chorus. The young newlywed couple’s life was turned upside down by the “poorly timed” birth of their first baby. The comfortable complacence of a king suddenly turned to fear and jealousy when threatened by news of a new king who had been prophesied and was long-awaited by the people.
If you find this year that you are unable to celebrate Christmas in your usual tradition, don’t let that fact steal your joy and peace. You may not exchange gifts or be with cherished loved ones, but the Christmas message remains unchanged. Maybe you can share its wonder and excitement with someone who has never heard it before; or maybe remind someone of it who is also struggling because this Christmas is very different.
Our ministry partners in Africa all send their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all your faithful prayers and support as they continue in their ministry. We pray that you will each feel the joy of God’s love and presence throughout the season and the coming year, Merry Christmas from Shirley and Gerald.
We pray especially that this year in Togo, the Christmas celebrations will not be hindered, as Pastor Sika reports of violence and soldiers on every street corner in Lomé due to upcoming elections planned for December 20th. We pray for protection and safety for all our friends there; and that the volatile situation will soon be calmed and that Togo will have a democratic government with more justice and less corruption.
In Kenya, Mike’s family will be unable to celebrate together on Christmas Day as Irene and some of the children will be in Uganda to visit her mother who is ill. We pray for safe travel, and for healing for her mother so that they can enjoy the time together. Also we pray for Mike as he gathers with others at home after a very busy ministry time, and as he prepares go on a ministry trip to England in the New Year.
In Central African Republic, we pray that Pastor Honoré and all at the CEERCA church and school will have a great time celebrating the birth of Jesus and praising God for all He has enabled them to accomplish this past year, in spite of the ongoing stability in that nation.