Is it really christmas eve? Isn’t christmas meant to be about joy and laughter and giving? Singing carols, unwrapping presents, watching crappy tv?
Even before the events of last week, working in the bush under 40degree sun, I couldn’t imagine Christmas was just around the corner. And then last week happened.
And what a week. I have so much to write and so many stories to tell. I don’t know where to begin. Even if I want to begin. It hurts. It hurts to see a country that was doing so well now unravelling. It hurts to leave people behind in it all. It hurts to read media reports forecasting further doom. It hurts.
And we shouldn’t be hurting at Christmas, right? Don’t the adverts on TV show happy, laughing people? Don’t the Christmas card pictures show peaceful, tranquil scenes? Isn’t Santa always jolly? Don’t we become Scrooge if we don’t enter the Christmas spirit?
Where does war and crying and fighting and pain fit into all that? Surely it has to be brushed aside, hidden, forgotten about?
Elizabeth and Zechariah must’ve been hurting after so many years of desperately wanting a child?
Mary must’ve felt pain when Joseph at first decided to call off their engagement?
The long journey Mary and Joseph had to travel all the way to Bethlehem. That must’ve brought despair, desperation and a physical kind of pain.
And what about when Herod murdered every child under 2 years? That was destruction and fighting and cruelty.
And then Jesus.
And then Jesus.
Coming into it all, not as someone who demands our constant energy and laughter, but one who comes into the middle of the hurting and the destruction and the war and the despair. And it says He comes as a counsellor. And as a peace-bringer. He comes to be God with us. God. With. Us.
Counsellor to South Sudan. One who can bring peace to that nation. God with us, God with them.
And to me, this year, that’s what Christmas is about. Strip away the fakeness, the layers it’s hidden behind and bring it back to the raw reality. The reality that Jesus came into a world that was very much hurting. And the hurting and destruction didn’t stop when He came. It is very much in the present in the true Christmas story. But Jesus, in it all, brings hope. He brings the opportunity of peace and the opportunity of reconciliation.
That’s the Christmas spirit I’m looking for this Christmas eve. Of God with us. God with South Sudan.
Check the BBC website for continued updates on the situation in South Sudan. This link gives a brief insight into the situation there: http://www.BBC.co.UK/news/world-africa-25427965. Most of all, please continue to pray.