Tragedy and Festive-lessness this Christmas

**Written yesterday, uploaded today due to internet issues, merry Christmas**

This morning I wanted to write a blog post about how it just doesn’t feel like Christmas out here and how it is very hard to get into that festive spirit, that buzz, that we tend to feel back in Australia.

I wanted to tell you that there is no Christmas light displays that we can drive up and down the streets looking at. In Blantyre (the largest city in Malawi) there is two roundabouts with some outdoor party lights draped around them. However, apparently the City Mayer couldn’t turn them on because vandals had pinched/broken some of the bulbs. So no Christmas lights.

I wanted to tell you how there is no Carols by Candlelight that we could all sit on a picnic blanket with our candles and sing a long to. Even if there were Carols by Candlelight we probably wouldn’t attend due to not wanting to fight off malaria carrying Mosquitos. So no Carols in the domain.

I wanted to tell you that for 99% of the people around us it is just another day. The majority of Yawo are Muslim, and so have there own holy days, but for the most part people can’t really afford to take a breather, farms needed to be tended to, children need to be fed and livelihoods earned. And for most it will pass by like any other day. So that is what I wanted to blog about, about how it requires extra effort to get into that festive, joyous, present giving/receiving mood because it is just impossible to find out here.

So this is what I wanted to write about until the events of a few hours ago changed things. Events which have impacted me, and changed the lives of one family in particular forever.

Elizabeth and I were just dropping my language helper off at his house after a big morning traipsing around the country side sourcing out thatched grass to roof our chilindo (gazebo like shelter) out the back. So as I pulled up Alec opened his door to a commotion. Alec’s wife and mother we’re running to the neighbour’s house along with a whole lot of other neighbours. Even with my limited knowledge of Yawo culture I knew something was up, a thief had been caught, or a fight had broken out, or someone had died… or someone had died.

Alec ran down the hill to the house, I waited by the car because I had Elizabeth with me, and the presence of a foreigner when large crowds are gathering around the commotion isn’t always helpful, so by the car I remained, wondering what was going on this Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately I didn’t have to wait long. A man appeared out of the crowd, running to the car, carrying a small boy… carrying a small boy, who was limp and wet. Alec ran beside him and from within all the commotion shouted to me to take the man and boy to the hospital right away, the boy had been found face down in some water at his house.

It’s amazing all the thoughts that go through your head in the split second all this happens. Fortunately the hospital was 1km down the road, unfortunately it was closed. Someone ran to call the doctor from a nearby house. And while the doctor was coming I tried to put my senior first aid into practice…where is this (expletive) doctor I thought. I went to look my self. This man is walking like he’s got all the time in the world, what’s he doing? Is he buttoning up his doctors coat? ’There’s no time for that, run like a life depends on it’ I wanted to shout at him, but he strolled up, knowing there was nothing that he could do for this lifeless body now. It was too late the boy had died.

I waited by the car, Elizabeth blissfully unaware of all that was going on. Alec came and told me to wait while the doc filled out the required paperwork.

My car went from being a grass carrier to an ambulance, to a hearse in the space of 20 minutes.

After I took the now shrouded body back to the place where I had just picked him up 20 minutes prior I solemnly drove home with Elizabeth sitting peacefully behind me.

In the car,on the way home, I told Elizabeth that the boy had drowned and that he had died. She asked is he now asleep. ’Yep my love, he’s now asleep’. I held it together in the car, but once we got inside and Elizabeth told Sam, ’Mummy the boy drowned in the water and he’s gone to sleep.’ That was it for me, I sobbed and sobbed.

The hopelessness of it all had got to me. From the young mother (late teens at the oldest) who may or may not have had a clue how long her 1 1/2 year old had been face down in the water, now absolutely unconsolable; to the doctor who appeared to know before he even arrived that he would be filling out a death certificate; to the crowd of onlookers at the hospital who for the most part were just there for the excitement and spectacle of it all; to me who, if I’d brushed up on my first aid, maybe could have done more; to this boy, so young, a death so preventable. It wasn’t malaria, or HIV, or TB, or any of the other common ways people die out here, it was drowning; to Christmas and how I should be feeling more festive; to Jesus… to Jesus. Praise God for Jesus.

The events of today have hit home to me the importance of Christmas, or at least that first Christmas and what it means for this broken and hopeless world. Sure we can be festive, and merry, and it should be a joyous time. But today it occurred to me that Christmas is serious, it’s a big deal.

Christmas is all about God becoming human and stepping into our world in a big way, not to give us a public holiday and an opportunity to get (yes, ok, give as well) presents. But to put into motion his restoration plan, initiated through his birth, demonstrated (at least glimpse of it) through his life and inaugurated through his death and resurrection and giving of the Holy Spirit.

This family won’t be celebrating Christmas like most of us who read this will be, but they need Christmas. They need Jesus, the hope he brings, the salvation he gives, his presence especially at this time.

The first Christmas is like the beginning of the end. We haven’t reached the end yet, but what has begun with Jesus will end with Him too.

Rev. 21:1-5 CEB ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”


Rev. 22:20-21 CEB ¶ The one who bears witness to these things says, “Yes, I’m coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! ¶ The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.

Amen, come Lord Jesus come, put this broken and hopeless world to rights and dwell with us fully. Oh how we need you, oh how this broken world needs you. Thank you for Bethlehem and that little manger where this putting the world to rights began. Thank you for defeating death on the cross and in the resurrection. Thank you that, while what happened today is an absolute tragedy, this little boy will be raised to new life. Comfort us as we live in this in between time, where the visible presence of the broken world is all around us, and where the invisible presence of this new world is at times really really hard to see. Come Lord Jesus come. Amen.

Merry Christmas

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