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A letter from Barbara and Larry Moir in Ethiopia

December 1, 2009

An Ethiopian journal

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
- Matthew 25:13

Last Friday afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, a voice came to our open door: “Teacher, may I speak with you?: It was Ibsa, a grade-12 dormitory student. He wanted to know if I was still willing to help with the school’s Christmas play. That’s when it hit me—Sunday is Advent! Christmas is coming! Not even the ever present poinsettias that grow in hedges around here are the portent of Christmas that is observed in the States. As church committees make their annual plea for the red-leafed plants to adorn chancels and church parlors, we need only look out any of our windows to see poinsettias from six inches to the sixteen-foot bush in our front yard.

Now Ibsa brings tidings of great dread. It’s time for the annual Christmas Pageant. No! Not a pageant! A play performed by high school students who are more than eager to proclaim the birth of our Savior. And they have asked me to help. Gulp! I'll write down some ideas and give them to Ibsa and see where it goes. At least we have 12 more days to work on this play. Christmas in Ethiopia is celebrated on January 6, our Day of Epiphany.

December 5, 2009

“Be the first to wish everyone you meet a merry Christmas.” This suggestion from H. Jackson Brown, his wife Rosemary, and their friend Kathy Peel is found in Life's Little Treasures Book of Christmas Traditions by H. Jackson Brown. So, although we will not be meeting anyone of you this Christmas, Barbara and I wish you “merry Christmas.”

Brown's cute “Little Treasures Book,” three by four by three quarters of an inch thick, was found among some Christmas decorations left behind by a former resident of our current home on the campus of the Bethel Evangelical Secondary School (BESS). Along with the book we were delighted to find a manger scene and some colored Christmas lights as well as a few decorations to add to the small collection we brought with us from the States. If read in one sitting, Brown's book takes eleven and a half minutes to read, that is if you fail to think about what you are reading. Normally this is not the kind of book that catches my eye but Brown’s book has become seasonal “dithering” reading. It did not take long to strike upon one interesting suggestion for a new Christmas tradition. “Throw restraint to the wind,” writes Brown. “Christmas is the one time of year when bigger is better and gaudy is good.”

Our brief four months in Dembi Dollo has helped us to see the “bigger is better and gaudy is good” way of celebrating Christmas in a new light. Two weeks ago “throw restraint to the wind” took on new meaning. Dinke, the grade-9 student we are helping, left for home one Sunday evening as it was growing dark. She had lunch with us, studied her English and biology, chatted with us, and played with Digger. Five minutes later, with a knock on the door she returned. Out of breath and with a big smile she asked, “Where's teacher?”

Surprised, Barbara walked out of the kitchen and asked, "Dinke! Why are you here?"

“I love you so much, I come back again, and again, and again to see you!” Then, with a hug and a promise to return in the morning before school, she was off home again. What great joy she has added to our lives.

Here people have few material possessions to give as gifts. What there is represents something far greater— the spiritual blessings given freely in the absence of wealth and in the midst of poverty.

Our Savior and Lord was born not in a palace, but in an animal stable. His bed was not fine gold and ivory, but a wooden feed trough. The earthly father who raised him and the mother who gave him birth were not a king and queen, but peasants. “Bigger is better and gaudy is good” cannot begin to match the greatness of his birth. God’s love in Christ Jesus—which is shown in many innocent ways by our children, our parents, friends, and church members—is the greatest gift given and received during this or any season.

May the great love of God in Jesus Christ be with you all this season.

With Hope and Confidence,

Larry and Barbara
 
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