It certainly does not feel like Advent has started or that it is the Christmas season. Shoprite (the South African grocery store chain) decorated for Christmas before the end of October. Last week I saw a small artificial Christmas tree in a store front window. Sunday, November 25th was the first Sunday in Advent; however no one at our church mentioned it. I thought about it but figured that it would be greeted with a “oh, yeah?” from the Pastor (because he’s probably never heard of Advent) and they would not know what more to do with it. On the whole it seems that Mozambique is oblivious to the upcoming holiday.
So, in commemoration of our missing the trimmings of Christmas in America, we decorated our house. We chose to decorate on a cooler day close to the beginning of Advent. I like the idea of taking the whole month to prepare for Christmas and when it is regularly reaching 36 degrees Celsius, the Christmas decorations help remind me of the season. So we decorated…MCC had a small meter-ish high artificial tree and we brought with us a Nativity scene and some paper stars from Ten Thousand Villages. We hung a few ornaments on our tree and improvised for other decorations—stringing sequins, making decorations out of cardboard and tinfoil, and Joél even made tinsel from tin foil.
We do not have many decorations but it does remind us of the upcoming season. It helps, too, to follow the Advent devotionals that MCC provided. We have begun to listen to Christmas music, though hearing “I’m Dreaming of White Christmas” or “I’ll be home for Christmas” are a bit hard to hear when we are sweating our pores out on a different continent than what has been home for most of our lives. Joél’s started playing Christmas carols on his guitar and that is pleasant.
I find that I frequently forget the miracle of Christ’s coming to earth in the form of a baby human in the busyness of life. That God wanted us to know his love for us so much that he became like us to show us who he is. That like the prophets foretold about Jesus, that he would be Emmanuel, God with us. To me the Advent season is so powerful because we have a whole month to concentrate and reflect on God’s love for us. This year I am looking for ways to see Emmanuel in my context here. Where am I seeing God in this place where the Bible stories have come to life in a different way that before because the culture is much more similar to the Bible-times culture? Where do I find God at work when life is completely different than I am accustomed?
We hope as you in North America (and other places around the globe) prepare for this Christmas season that you can find moments to enjoy the decorations that remind us of this season. The decorations are not the meaning of the holiday but they help remind us. May you find God, Emmanuel, who is present in all of our lives, in a real and meaningful way this season.