Many years ago I came to Africa. I was young, soaking up the experiences like a dry sponge. Some I loved, and others seemed strange to me.
Sweltering in the heat of the African sun during December was something I could not get used to. Christmas shopping in air-conditioned shops with cotton wool snow on northern hemisphere artificial Christmas trees was incongruent. Yet this was Christmas in Africa.
We ate roast turkey and plum pudding – in 30 degrees of heat. I loved the way my family, and later my new family (whom I was about to join through marriage) made the effort to make me feel at home. Roast potatoes and Brussel sprouts (frozen in those early days, fresh ones being unobtainable – now you can buy fresh anything almost the whole year round.) Brandy butter and trifles. Gammon and cranberry jelly (if we were lucky).
Perhaps it was God who made Christmas Eves so cool every year at my husband’s family home; perhaps it was just the love my father-in-law had for me; or perhaps he just enjoyed it himself, but we had a fire in front of the Christmas tree every year to help me with any homesickness I may be feeling. Cold Christmases could not be provided. But a fire offered a semblance of Christmas past for me, and willingly one was lit every year. Perhaps it was just love …
Now, forty-five years later, hot Christmases are the norm for me. I have had more Christmases in the heat than I have had in potential snow. Christmas at the beach, eating cold turkey and ham on the sand; Christmas in the garden, with turkey cooked on open fires; Christmas in warm rain; in violent thunder storms that took out the power, resulting in us eating the turkey the next day; one Christmas when we skipped the turkey altogether. That, as we say in SA, was not lekker – not good. We didn’t do that again.
But whatever we ate, wherever we ate it, whoever joined us for the meal, one thing was constant. The fact was, every year, we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. We sang carols and shared memories of Christmases past; we laughed and ate too many chocolates; we pulled crackers and welcomed friends.
And always there was Jesus. In a crib, yes, in a variety of ways portrayed as a baby, but Jesus in reality, as our Saviour and Lord, present with us in this time of celebration.
Always Jesus. And looking back, over the years I know now.
It was just love …
May God bless you with love this Christmas.