Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. Psalm 89:15, 16

My first Christmastime in Zambia was hot, hot, hot, and humid. The weather was unrelenting for three months. The rains were late, so the heat continued to build. Everything and everyone was wilted. Subconsciously, I watched for the “signs”
of Christmas. I thought there might be a unique cultural twist in this very tropical sub-Saharan African climate, but I truly expected something to clue folks in to the fact that Christmas was just weeks, and then when it was only days away!

One of my American idiosyncrasies needed to be addressed—how commercialized Christmas had become for me. However much I tried to assert that I knew the true meaning of Christmas, I still halfway expected the “advent” of commercialism, even in Africa! Once I recognized my own foolishness, I was able to truly observe the cultural aspects of Christmastime in Africa. 

Conferences of village churches were making plans for the annual Christmas service. No, they were not planning children’s programs, candlelit processions, or paper lunch bags with fruit and nuts. They were planning an all-night song service.  All the congregations within 30 kilometers would gather for 24 hours of fellowship. Starting Christmas Eve before dusk, the singing would start drifting across the bushland toward Lumano village. Lovely African hymns with their unique rhythms and tones would fill the trees. No cement and brick edifice would contain these praises to the newborn Savior. If the rain came, some might try to stay dry under a thatched church roof, but many would appreciate the refreshing shower so long overdue. 

Since traveling at night for the mzungu (white person) was quite precarious, my visiting children and I joined the festivities for the service Christmas morning. The Africans having harmonized most of the night before were pleasantly exhausted. The women welcomed us with customary handclap and handshake while slightly dipping a knee. The broad white smiles told it all. These people lived in the light of the countenance of our Lord. 

My first Christmastime back in the States was traumatizing. The commercialism was overwhelming. The Advent season was almost squelched by parties, presents, and pressure. And then I recalled Christmas in Zambia—the peace that hovered over all of us. How could I relate that to my American family and friends? Was this perhaps a new mission field for me? We often think of missions involving places overseas. I have learned that my own neighborhood is ripe for the harvest. 

Dear Lord, please forgive me when I forget to exult in your name all day long. Praise be to you for sending your Son to be my Savior, and the Savior of all people throughout the world.  Amen. 

Rebekah Carey
Used with permission from the 2006 LWMS devotion booklet Beautiful Feet – Meditations for Missionary Women