I am not sure why, but I am looking forward to this Christmas season. What is special about Christmas? Why the joy that seems to bubble out of the seam of our hearts? For some it is because this is the end of year. We are thankful that the year is coming to a close and cannot wait to get some rest and conclude chapter 2012. In Kenya it is common for many organisations and businesses to close for this break for about two weeks, whether as a break or compulsory leave days for all staff. Whatever the case, many would rather take leave days at this time of the year than be working. We want to celebrate, visit places and simply do those things we may have looked forward throughout the year. For some Christmas places are decorated, presents bought and go into great length to connect with family and friends.
The essence of Christmas for Christians is that we commemorate the birth of Christ. One of verses in the old testament that is likely to be read in many Churches this season declares “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). The date when Christ was born is not relevant as to the fact that he was born and there is joy because of this. He came to be like us, God living as man, the highest form of love bringing joy and peace to the world.
The closest I have come to understanding this is a reflection I read some years back that remain edged in my memory. A certain lady was watching some geese freezing in the winter weather and she dressed up warmly and went outside to try and get the geese into a warm place. She tried herding them and the more she tried the more they ran away from her. She struggled and frustrated that the geese do not realise she was out to help them thought “I wish I can speak their language”. That is what God did in sending the second person of the trinity to live as a human being.
Different cultures have different traditions of celebrating Christmas. When I was growing up I knew Christmas as the time I was assured of a new dress and special dish of chapatti and a lot of meat and other delicacies; goats were killed and we would have many relatives visiting each other and rejoicing. I would see people I had not seen in a long while, and if I was out visiting with my sister (RIP) as was common for me, this was the time to back to the village and join the family. It was unheard of to spend Christmas in town! In the Church, the Catholic Church has some of the most memorable traditions. As a child I got very mesmerised by the portrayal of the nativity scene using various sculptures that gave a good idea of what the birth of Jesus was like with many stars (lights of different colours). For a child, that memory was enough to realise ‘there is joy in the air’. The other most memorable aspect was singing Christmas carols moving from one house to the next. I recalled this when I attended a beautiful Christmas carols’ show at St Paul Chaplaincy Nairobi.
I love singing, and hearing old memorable Christmas songs was heavenly. In particular there is this song ‘Indulci jubilo’ that I sang during Christmas while in university choir but not heard a choir sing it since! In addition to others like to mention but a few the Handels messiah songs ‘for unto us a child is born; Halleluya’ that graced the night. The theme for the show was geared to the elections in 2013 with the theme of peace. The message could not have been more opportune. In Kenya, one can hardly thinking about elections without thinking about violence and in less than three months we will get into elections. Already we can see violence in various areas of different magnitude which could have political ramifications or even more likely has political causes. Political and ethnic intolerance has been a major cause of violence coupled with other socio-economic causes; yet the message of peace and joy is the Christmas message.
During the Christmas season, we are likely to send goodwill messages to our loved (and not so loved) ones, we remember people we have not spoken with for some period of time. We will scroll our phone books, email addresses and wish many people ‘a prosperous year and a merry Christmas’. We will not confirm political affiliations, their ethnic or other identities but simply wish them a happy peaceful period. I pray that as we celebrate and have good wishes for Christmas, we will extend the same spirit throughout 2013 and have a peaceful Kenya, no matter how elections go.