Merry Christmas! I have been entirely astounded by just how beautiful this day has been. Let’s be honest-you knew that a piece of me was dreading waking up on Christmas morning in the heat, on the floor, in Africa, an ocean away from the people I love most in the world. I would have given anything to have been beaten out of bed at five AM by the insistent little hands of my overjoyed toddler cousins gleefully heralding the long anticipated arrival of Christmas morning-and was steeling myself instead for the dull drone of the mosque. I ached to be home.
You see, given that this is our second year in Senegal, we have a couple of established Christmas traditions. Christmas Eve is gloriously devoted to caroling, a Christmas Eve “service” [read: projecting a Mark Driscoll podcast onto the wall], and steaming mugs of peppermint hot chocolate while we watch Elf [who taught us that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear.]
It was the caroling that got me. We sang all the beautiful old songs that to my recollection have never been unfamiliar. But never before have they struck a chord with me quite like they did last night in the boy’s kitchen. I grabbed a pen and kept furiously scribbling lyrics while we sang each song like we meant it. I’ll show you…
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” [I didn’t understand hopelessness until I moved to a Muslim country. Not really. Jesus entered into the story of humanity-our story-and brought HOPE. Emmanuel-God WITH us. Actually with you and me! Rescuer. Healer. Restorer. Redeemer. Rebuilder. And He’s here!]
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till HE appeared-and the soul felt it’s worth…a thrill of HOPE, the weary world rejoices! For yonder breaks a NEW and glorious morn-fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices! Oh night divine.” [He came, and a weary world finally had reason to rejoice! Hope and joy are both traced back to a dirty stable in Bethlehem. Jesus brought hope and joy to broken people-to you and me. And now we rejoice not in our circumstances, but in Jesus! My joy is not in Christmas trees or my family or being healthy and comfortable-it’s in Christ Himself. ]
“Then let us all with one accord, sing praises to our heavenly Lord. That hath made Heaven and earth of nought and with His blood mankind has bought. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel-born is the King of Israel!”
“O come, Thou Day spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” [I love this idea of light coming and shattering the darkness of sin and death. Again, something that means a lot more to me now than it did two years ago.]
Good tidings of GREAT joy that are for all the people. For unto us was born this day, many many years ago, a Savior! And oh, how desperately we needed Him. How desperately I need Him. Our lives should “repeat the sounding joy”-and not just today, at Christmas-but every day. Because there’s a reason for hope, and a reason to rejoice!
And so Merry Christmas to you. I hope today you know how passionately loved you are. How pursued and treasured. That in a new way you understand the wonders of His unfailing love for you- and how very, very good God is.
I’ll tell you all about Christmas in Dakar tomorrow. But for now-heaven and earth are rejoicing-we ought to join them!