A Christmas MessageDecember 16, 2009
"I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people." (Luke 2:8)
Jayanthi and I are often reminded of the truth of those words in the many ways that the Christian community in Botswana faithfully does God's work and shares the Good News. Yes, they bear witness that the story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is neither static nor confined to a particular point in time. God's continuous transformation of people's lives is the Christmas story repeated over and over.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God...And the word became flesh and dwelt among us...."(John 1.1)
This last Sunday was just another Sunday. I busily made preparations for the morning worship service - deciding on the order of service and figuring out what needed to be said in Setswana (one the national languages), and make a list of the morning's announcements. As I said before, it was just another Sunday.
Although Christmas was just around the corner, I really didn't feel much of the Christmas spirit. Jayanthi's father had recently become quite ill and was placed in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Nagercoil, India. Sensing a need to be with her parents at this time, she left at the beginning of this month to be with them. The house where Jayanthi and I reside in Gaborone, was now quiet and empty. That became doubly so, as people in the nation's capitol traditionally return to their home villages over the Christmas holiday. To be exact, the streets of the capitol are empty. Our children, Shanthi and Priya, would be spending Christmas at their respective homes in the USA.
As the morning worship service began at the UCCSA Church in Ramotswa where I serve as pastor, the room was half empty - a reminder to me of the emptiness that I had felt up to this point during the Christmas season. As the congregation began singing the opening hymn of praise, a church member came forward and wanted to give her testimony. This wasn't what I had in mind, for the third Sunday of Advent. This was the season to sing Christmas carols, read Advent readings and through the sermon, remind people of their need to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Nonetheless, because she was already at the front of the congregation, I felt I had no choice and I grudgingly complied. What then took place during that testimony and through the church's actions - stood at the very heart of the Christmas message. That woman reminded the congregation of how she had grown up as an orphan, joined the church four years back and felt happy in now having a church family. She also recalled how after getting married and giving birth to a girl, she felt that her life was finally complete. But then, in the course of a year, her husband died and she was thrown out of the family home by her late husband's family who had accused her of witchcraft (sometimes done in Africa as a means of taking what little a widow has away from her). Suddenly, she recounted that she and her daughter had no place to call home. She said that she felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. The Church she said, then stepped in and helped her. That is to say, the parishioners of the congregation helped in building a new home for her. She then burst into tears and again thanked the church for all that it had done and for being her family. By the time she had finished her testimony the church was completely full.
Nothing I spoke about during the morning sermon on this Third Sunday of Advent, matched the power and impact of her words. Her testimony was the Christmas message - "I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people." (Luke 2:8)
After the church worship service, the congregation made an impromptu decision to go to the local hospital to pray with a parishioner who was admitted earlier in the week. While there, they struck up a conversation with the hospital staff. The nurse on duty, mentioned that there was always children in the hospital over the holiday season and that it would be a lonely time for them. The congregation committed themselves, right then and there, to visit on Christmas and spend time with the children. Although being a small congregation has its limitations, it also has its advantages. The greatest advantage being the ability to do things at a moment's notice in service of God.
Upon leaving the hospital, the congregation headed to the house of the person who had earlier given her testimony. The congregation conducted a house blessing - singing hymns and praying collectively and individually in each of the rooms. Afterwards, everyone dispersed. It was a full day! It was also a day to give thanks to God.
"My prayer," Paul wrote, "is that you learn to value the things that really matter....that you may be found rich in the harvest of justice." (Phil. 1.10,11)
Our work at Kgolagano College of Theological Education, continues to be a source of both blessings and concern. One of the college's ongoing programmes for prison students came to a close this last year because of lack of funding. Nonetheless, there was reason to rejoice as we saw four inmates graduate this last month with a Diploma in Theology. And two former inmates committed themselves to entering the ministry this year.
We continue to give thanks for the many people who encourage us in our ministry through e-mails, letters and prayers of support. We are also appreciative of the many ways that Global Ministries has helped in our work and worked in solidarity with the Church in Botswana. God bless.
Jim and Jayanthi Wilson, Botswana
James & Jayanthi Wilson are missionaries with the Kgolagano Theological College in Gaborone, Botswana. Jim serves as an instructor at Kgolagano Theological College. Jayanthi is seconded to the Botswana Synod and assigned to Kgolagano Theological College. She serves as librarian at Kgolagano College and will continue to work with the Sedibeng Centre.
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