Sunday, December 25, 2005

from our hood to yours

Merry Christmas! Or as they say here, "Happy Christmas!"

Christmas was different this year. We played Marco Polo in the pool under balmy African skies. We barbecued fish instead of cooking turkey. We spent it with our missions team instead of our extended family. And we went to Burgers Park (Pretoria's central park) to attend a Christmas program and to help serve food and pass out gifts to the poor and homeless. It wasn't your typical Christmas program or our typical Christmas experience.

The program was what you might call "low budget." The singing was somewhat strained as people from multiple cultures were trying to understand what was going on, let alone understanding the words of the songs. The dramas were simple, sometimes corny, and the acting was marginal. The food and gift distribution was somewhat chaotic, but at least everyone got a hot meal and every kid under 12 got 1 gift. But you know what? There was joy. And there was dancing.

Strained. Simple. Chaotic. It's certainly not what we're used to. But as I sat in the park among a few hundred poor and homeless people, I wondered if we were experiencing a Christmas more like the Christmas Joseph and Mary experienced than the kind of Christmas we ever could attending a well-choreographed performance held in a climate-controlled and omfortable sanctuary. I'm not sure anyone really knew how the day would unfold out there under the clouds and trees in the park. But in the end, everyone got a gift. And that's Christmas.

May Christ touch your heart this Christmas.

1 comment:

Amy Steffen said...

Hello neighbor,

As I sat in my office, looking at a picture of what, in my experience, would be a classic South African park (right down to the colonial screaming, white-wash dripping, thatch-roofed edifice in the back) and seeing the sweet young faces amongst the almost mandatory mayhem that any South Africa event seems to boast, I have to fess up to a perplexing pulse of envy which flowed through my veins. You see, perusing through the account of your 2005 family Christmas coerced me into reflecting back on the many joyous accomplishments that are my own holiday season -

“Hack, hack, hack” would be more fitting than the customary “ho, ho, ho”, as my yuletide activities have been dripping with what is now becoming an annual tradition of acute bronchitis. This knowledge should assist in conjuring up a crystal clear picture of yours truly, phlegming my way through a deluge of shoppers – who, like me, are volleying the marsh-like malls of molding miscellany in hopes of discovering that one perfect addition to my family’s ever-growing anthology of storage. My sacrificial offerings to the god of useless chattel were especially successful this year and I have every confidence that my storehouse of revolving credit should be full all year long.

With an almost roaring subconscious fear of somehow missing out on my per annum acquisition of worthless calories, I have successfully consumed (though not necessarily tasted) more than one baked thing.

I have spent countless hours magically “whipping up” visions of decorator quality sugarplums for our church sanctuary, only to become (like a next morning hang over after a great party) an administrative headache to remove.

And? Well the list could go on and on. Though there were nice moments (the family gatherings), worshipful moments (Christmas Eve candlelight service) and even memory building moments (my nephew’s new piercing), I have to say that I find no great significance in any single part. And, so saying, I have to go back to my original envious point, to spit through lips bitter with jealousy, how very blessed you and your family are. Because, as we both know, no decoration could ever be as beautiful, no present unique, nor church service anointed as giving hope to one battered soul in need.

Happy Christmas with much love, Amy