A Faith House Christmas

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December 21, 2011

The first time we celebrated Christmas at Faith House, the trappings and decorations so familiar to us as Americans were just a bit strange to our girls. Most of them marveled at the lighted tree and decorated themselves as well as the tree. But Jane Mwihaki stood back, watching, and asked, “What is the origin of this custom, this decorating of a tree for Christmas?” I asked her if this activity seemed strange to her. She nodded with her dimpled smile– “It’s my first one!” I tried to explain the symbols to her, the evergreen tree because Jesus is eternal and brought us the gift of eternal life, the lights because Jesus is the light of the world, the stars because a star led the maji to Bethlehem to find the Christ child. Some of the decorations I couldn’t explain– they are just decorations, somewhat synonymous with Christmas in our western culture.

This year the celebration was a bit more familiar. They still adorn themselves with stars as they decorate the tree with stars and angels and sparkling balls. And they learn to roll out and cut Christmas star cookies, decorating them with icing, sampling the sweets as they work. Meals at Faith House are nutritious and delicious, but the Christmas feast surpasses all that they are used to– meat, vegetables, bread, soft drinks– such abundance!

Learning the spirit of giving, the girls draw names and each is given a small amount of money to shop for a special gift for her “secret pal.” Anticipation reigns as each girl waits to see how her selection will be received. Shrieks of excitement and laughter punctuate the opening of each present. Hugs and thank-you’s express the gratitude and sense of fun in the giving and receiving.

Central to the whole celebration, the day closes with the reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2. “And there were in the same country, shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And they were afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord! And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace, good will to men.’ And it came about that when the angels had gone away from them back into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Come, let us go and see this thing which has comet pass, which the Lord has made known to us!’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, lying in a manger.”

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