AFRICAN CHRISTMAS: Memories are Made of This (John K. Muthengi)
Advent evenings, when children singing their hearts out in the village! It took one Sunday school teacher to remind us it was Advent and God was coming to Earth as a human being – oh what excitement! We were to prepare for this encounter. We were to prepare our homes and the small Church yard.
The most interesting was the preparation of the last evening the night vigil of December 24.
We would go out most of the evenings as village kids irrespectively of the churches we belonged to – it was a child feast, a child evening outing. We looked forward to these outings, just go out and sing our hearts out from family to family. We would sing songs from different church traditions, Methodist, Salvation Army, Evangelist, Catholics. The motive was to raise a small fund to cater for snacks to enjoy that vigil night when we would sing and praise and listen to Bible memory verses and passages about God visiting us!
This was in Meru, Kenya, in the countryside I grew up in. Guess what, this was the best season of the year: because we had longest school break, though it was just 5 to 6 weeks. Our uncles and working parents would be home from towns –perhaps after a whole year!
This was Christmas way back in the 1970s when I was young and handsome – just joking. But guess the other but more important part of this was: the mystery of incarnation had a taste and a smell, a very sweet one! God coming among us as a child, for some it meant that Daddy would bring home strawberry jam from the Thika Factory he worked for; for some of us, the uncle working in Mombasa would bring a can, written “Milo” on it, a nice energy drink that was quite a feast. Untie Liz would prepare very special tea, not low not high as my Dutch friends would wonder about tea classification.
All this depended on, if there were members of the family who were employed. Unemployment situation has changed for better over the years as our villages took up the challenge of tree growing [that they can harvest and sell and prepare their feasts and other life expenditures].
Also, small income generating projects and microcredit initiatives have favored a better preparation throughout the year. Kids can earn from tree planting initiatives, contribute to these feasts and still enjoy their singing evenings.
So as we live this year’s Advent, our kids will still sing in the villages under the star lit sky. On the eve of Christmas day many Churches will be filled with music and concerts; many homes will use kerosene and oil… there will be delicious scents of chapatti and traditional chicken soup and stew in the air to welcome the birth of the Messiah Child…our Lord Jesus Christ… with pomp and jubilation.
Incarnation will again express itself in sound and delicious smell and taste in many of our villages.
Thanks to the small projects that assist families to live and celebrate.
Thanks to the Microcredit initiatives and to Heike and the Team in Germany and Kenya.
Thank God, thank Heavens and Mother Earth and thank you all.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 2015.
Fr. John K. Muthengi, CP