Jesus Christ may not have been born on December 25, but I love the joy and spirit of the Christmas season. The fact is that Jesus was born; and the star-led wise men traveled from the East to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the Christ child.
Rather than involving ourselves in historical controversy surrounding the actual date of Jesus’ birth, we should simply celebrate the season with our families.
Last Christmas I was really enthralled to see my 12-year-old son, Malack, enjoy himself sharing everything I’d bought for him. As soon as I arrived home and handed him the five bars of fruit-and-nut Cadbury’s chocolates, he went outside the house shouting to the children in neighboring homes to come to our compound. ”Hadijah!” (“Come”), he called out at the top of his voice. “John, please come!” “All my friends, please come!”
Within a short time, many cheerful children had gathered around Malack. He then broke the chocolates into small pieces and handed a piece to everyone present. The children were shouting, “Malack, please give me,” and the boy gave out everything he had. His mother and I watched him from the house.
After he’d given out the last one, he came to me and said, “Daddy, some children have been missed. Please give me money to buy some more chocolates.” It was a request I could not turn down.
As Malack and I got out of the house he told the kids (whose number had greatly swelled), “Please wait for me here. I am coming back with more chocolates and sweets.” Meanwhile, Malack’s mother brought out a cassette player to entertain the children with Christmas carols. She played the carols by the legendary American singer, the late Jim Reeves. The 5- to 13-year-olds burst into cheerful singing accompanying Jim Reeves’ bass voice.
Meanwhile, my son and I were hunting chocolates. At his instigation, I bought four cases of soda and 10 large-size Cadbury bars. It was indeed a delight to watch Malack serve each of the impromptu visitors with a bottle of soda and a piece of chocolate. This time around he too had something to eat and drink. His Christmas joy was to see other boys and girls happy. “I wish you a merry Christmas,” they sang before leaving.
I Learned a Lesson
The incident reminded me of Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God as belonging to people who were like little children. If Christmas is to have meaning for us, I said to my wife, we have to be like Malack. Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God down to us and to show us how to become its citizens. Like children, we have to love God and our fellow humans.
The love of children is pure. Children hardly distinguish between a boy and a girl, for example. And they don’t pretend to be what they aren’t. If a child does not like you, they will tell you to your face. It was in the spirit of Christmas that I was willing to share the little I had with the children of our neighborhood.
Since then the greetings from these children touch my heart. ”Shikamoo, Baba Malack” (Swahili for “Good morning, Malack’s father”).
“Marahaba Mwanangu” (polite reply in Swahili, meaning “Good morning, my child”).
“Is Malack at home?” one would ask.
“No, he has gone to school,” I would reply.
“Please pass my greetings to him and give him permission to visit our home.”
Malack is a pal to everybody in the village. Because of his love for the other children, we now receive invitations to many homes, thus getting the opportunity to tell Muslim families the story of Jesus. Whenever we can afford it, we give them cassettes containing Christian songs and carols. When we learn and practice the love of Christ, Christmas will be of great value to us.
Besides the gifts of food and valuables we give out or receive during this season, we should also see the importance of this day in the messages people receive through the mass media that they don’t receive at other times of the year. It’s a time when many (even some non-Christian) broadcasters air messages and songs about Jesus, a time when the Christian message is warmly and freely received (by atheists, Muslims, and others who do not believe in Jesus as personal Savior).
This is true for the millions of people around the world. In Kenya one year, after practicing a series of Christmas and other songs for nearly two months, students of the Kenyatta College in Nairobi recorded their work, which was broadcast at Christmas over the Voice of Kenya Studios (VOK, now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) to the whole nation—including the big Muslim population.
The entire nation listened to such songs as “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”; “Take the Name of Jesus with You”; and “Joy to the World.” And remember, we were using the government facility to spread the good news to Kenyans enjoying their holidays.
All because it was Christmas Day.
The message of Christmas is, Let the world rejoice because the Savior is born. The heart of the Savior yearns for the salvation of everybody. He has already prepared a new home for the descendants of Adam and Eve.
In Revelation 21:1–4 John described the home of all those who follow Christ: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . . I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for a husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ “ (NIV).
This is the present truth for all believers.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s be ready. Let’s be waiting for Christ’s return. This, to me, is the real meaning of Christmas. The fact that He was born is past tense. The fact that He is coming soon is present tense.
Abel Moriango Bwana attended the Gekomu Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kisii, Kenya when he wrote this article, which was first printed in the December 11, 2003 edition of Adventist Review.