This article appears in the November/December 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Celebrations happen all around the world; they strengthen us as a community, give us a sense of identity, and provide a foundation — a way for us to view and live our lives.
In Kenya where I grew up, most people returned to their home villages for Christmas celebrations. Twice a year, my dad returned to the village where I lived with my mother, siblings, and extended family — once at Christmas and once during his month-long leave in April. The holiday period was largely religious in nature. The emphasis was on church services, singing Swahili Christmas songs followed by the reading of the biblical narratives and sermons. Families got together to attend church services and enjoy a feast together, perhaps roasted goat or chicken and chapatis. If gifts were given, it was usually practical items, mainly food and occasionally books or a new outfit to wear to church.
My wife Jessica and I are still deciding what our Christmas traditions will look like even as we continue to experiment with many different activities. We begin the Advent season by lighting Advent candles. We attend church together as a family on Christmas Eve and open simple gifts on Christmas Day. No matter which traditions we decide to use, we want our celebration to stay focused on the One who came to earth to redeem and reconcile the creation with the Creator, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this issue of Missionary Messenger, you will read about a number of celebrations. Two of our workers provide a window into South Asian and Thai weddings, we learn about the importance of names in the Czech Republic and Guinea-Bissau, and we see how birthdays are celebrated in one Honduran orphanage.
It is my hope that as we read these celebration stories from all over the world, we will see the story of Immanuel. God is present in far-off lands. May all people one day know that He is the true reason to celebrate!
Nelson Okanya serves as president of EMM.
This article appears in theNovember/December 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.