A letter from Kay Day in Malawi
As I write, I am listening to Christmas music, trying to capture the spirit of the holiday. But the truth is, it does not “feel” like Advent. There are a number of reasons for this. The most obvious is the weather. It is in the 80s during the day, with high humidity; then the rains come. This is as it should be this time of year in Malawi. Everyone rejoices in this, except this lady, who is used to snow for Christmas. But more than this, there are no cultural clues that this is Christmas like heavy marketing or obvious decorations in the streets or on the houses. Christmas is not a commercial holiday here as it is in the States. There are a few stores from South Africa that are merchandising for the season, but for the most part life goes on as usual. That is most understandable in a country that struggles financially with everyday life.
Christmas is really a church celebration for Malawians. On Christmas Day there will be worship services in all the churches. Gifts are given in that context — but not the elaborate gifts of the States. These will be small tokens of appreciation, often food items or practical gifts. Another reason for the lack of Christmas feel is that the liturgical calendar is not a part of church tradition here, so Advent is not a worship focus. There will be Advent messages in some of the city churches, but not in the villages. So the clues and cues I am used to for the season are missing.
But that is not to say that the celebration of the Incarnation is not just as important here as in the States. It certainly is. It is just that it looks and feels different here from what I am used to. This is the celebration of God with us. God has been with us throughout the year. God has been with us in providing rains in February that allowed the crops to recover from a drought and yield food for the year, and the rains have come bountifully so far this season. I have experienced God’s presence most personally and tangibly in my hip replacement surgery. From beginning to end, I experienced God’s powerful presence, especially in your prayers and support as the Body of Christ. I will undergo the same surgery on the left side in January and I am counting on God’s presence and care then as well. He is the faithful God.
I have seen God’s presence in the reopening of Chigodi Women’s Center and programs there that are making a difference in people’s lives. I have felt God’s presence in the many guests from around the world who have passed through Blantyre this year. Each one who came brought a new awareness of God’s presence in the Body of Christ. It was a joy to welcome so many visitors this year. Within my Malawian family, God’s presence has been powerful in celebrations of graduations, ordinations and installations, and in the birth of a new baby and the expecting of two more. We have been greatly blessed as a family and have experienced God’s presence.
My prayer for you and your family is that you experience God’s presence in wonderful and powerful ways this Christmas season and throughout the New Year.
In Christ’s love,
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel — which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 67