The celebration of Christmas means different things to different people. We all claim that it is all about Christ but is it really? I think about how annoying it is to some when others write Xmas because it takes the Christ out of Christmas. And yet, I see how Christ is taken out daily. I certainly have been guilty of that. We get wrapped up in the sales after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday and we focus totally on the gift giving. Finding the perfect tacky Christmas sweater becomes a focus over serving others. Our lists of gifts to others becomes longer each year and we justify it by thinking that we are "giving" to others as Christ would do. We think that buying "things" to give the poor makes everything okay. We get hung up on the decorating (I'm the worst here) and the plans for the parties and activities throughout December. All the while we are planning, buying, preparing, decorating, baking......are we really thinking of Christ and focusing on the real meaning of Christmas? What are we teaching our children? I was talking to some of the mamas and the children here at the James Place at different times about Christmas. And this is what I learned from their humble hearts: The children did not even know what "decorating the Christmas tree," meant. Most of the children have never decorated a cookie for Christmas.
Most of the Mamas have never owned a Christmas tree - let alone purchased the decorations for it! I did not have a conversation with one person in our program that has EVER been to a Christmas party. There are no gifts purchased for each other on Christmas Eve OR Christmas Day....EVER! There MIGHT be an occasion when a friend will hand make a loved one something.....but purchasing a gift is not even in their minds. There is never a thought of "what to buy or who to invite." ELF ON A SHELF IS CREEPY and confusing to them............and to me! Most of them do not have electricity......in fact, it is a luxury - and the concept of decorating the entire OUTSIDE of a house with Christmas lights is bizarre and wasteful. A stocking hung with care is something that wasn't thought out to them because a stocking is only used to warm the feet here.
This is the JOY that I saw in their eyes when they told me what they DO have at Christmas: They totally make it about Christ. On Christmas Eve, the traditional Ugandan family gets together and they have a dinner together before going to church. Church is usually an all night event.....praising and thanking God for the birth of Christ - ALL NIGHT LONG......celebrating the life of Christ until the sun rises.......and that reminds them of Christ risen again. Then Christmas day they have a feast celebrating the birth and life of Christ. They pray as a family and play games together all day long. Many spend the night together Christmas night (because it is a special day to be with loved ones) in the village with all friends and family celebrating, laughing, playing games, eating, singing and praying! How beautiful is that?
We are celebrating Christmas at the James Place and trying to focus on the importance of the birth of Christ. We are not making it a western Christmas but there are treats and there is a humble tree that the preschoolers decorated.
We, perhaps, are learning more from them this Christmas about putting Christ first. About simple means. About loving others and not getting carried away in all the "fuss" of Christmas. And the next time I read Xmas, I'm going to take a minute to be thankful that it is a reminder to focus on Christ. Instead of thinking negatively about the "fuss", I'm prayerful that it will remind me to re-focus. I don't think there is anything wrong with celebrating Christmas in all the ways mentioned......I'm just saying that MY focus has shifted because of a simple lifestyle and the humble hearts of the people that I have grown to love as family.
In the words of Dr. Seuss: "Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!" ― Dr. Seuss
Merry Christmas from Jinja!