Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

’Twas the day before Christmas

We live in a very small town, but today it is almost impossible to move around in the business area. Everybody seems to be doing their last-minute Christmas shopping. Those planning to spend Christmas with their relatives, are stocking up on food to ensure that there will be enough to eat. People are coming out of liquor stores after they’ve ensured that there will be enough to drink over the weekend. Those with money have bought the latest gadgets to be handed out as Christmas gifts. The main road leading from Johannesburg to the North Coast (with some of the best fishing areas in South Africa) passes straight through our town and huge 4 x 4 vehicles towing even larger fishing boats or trailers are moving non-stop through the town. Many of the trailers have an off-road quad-bike latched onto it – quite often two or even three so that there will be no need for people to take turns in riding the quad-bikes over the sand dunes.
How did we move from the story in the Bible of a mother and father who had to stay over in a stable, from a mother who gave birth to a Son who later declared that He did not even have a pillow to sleep on, to where we are today? I’m certain that we’re missing the real message of Christmas.
And I can’t help wondering what the millions of people living in extreme poverty will be doing on Christmas this year. In Swaziland I know that the majority of the people have nothing extra to give to their children for Christmas. No presents. Nothing special to prepare for dinner. Those relatives coming home, although welcome, will more often than not stretch the budget even further. Tomorrow, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, at least 6500 families will be gathered around the deathbed of a relative who had died of AIDS of which at least 4500 will be found in sub-Sahara Africa.
The purpose of this post is not to attack those with money. But I do have a feeling, as I observe what is going on around me, that Christ will not be found in the stores and in the exotic vacation venues on this Christmas day. If I had to search for Him tomorrow, I would rather start my search in a humble hut or in a mud house, where there are no flickering lights or a special Christmas dinner, but where He is being honored as the King of kings and the Prince of peace – the way in which He was honored just after He was born.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 - Posted by | AIDS, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Disparity, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Swaziland, Theology


  1. Can I push back a little Arnau? I think Jesus was and will be found wherever the true seeker is found. The wise men that came to see the babe were rich and probably returned home to their lives of comfort and abundance, but I believe they returned home with changed hearts after their encounter with the King of Kings. As a man Jesus was found often, indeed, in the lowliest of places. But he also went to the opulent home of the rich collector Zacchaeus, and his disciples stayed on with the wealthy business woman Lydia.

    Sometimes I think we over-spiritualize the poor and Christmas is a time when we are prone to this because the contrast between those who have and those who do not is so glaring. I’m writing this as I sit in a lovely home, nestled in the beautiful Del Monte forest and among other multi-million dollar homes. Here, or in a mud hut I can find or miss Jesus. Likewise I can miss Him or find Him in the hustle-bustle of holiday shopping and eating and gift-giving. And when all the trappings of the holiday season are past us, I can still miss Him as much as I did during the consumer driven days preceding Christmas.

    The baby Jesus is standing at the door of the mansion and the mud hut knocking. We can hear or choose not to hear the knock at our door, regardless of our situation in life.


    Comment by Wendi | Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. It’s true that Jesus went to the home of Zacchaeus, but look at what had happened to him while Jesus was there! As I said, I’m not attacking the rich (how can I, if I’m probably also within the top few percent of rich people in the world, owning a house AND a car!) But when Christmas is ONLY about spending money on even more luxurious goods, then I do think we’re missing the message.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. Of course, everyone who can read this is rich, we own a computer and are connected to the web. I think it’s too easy though, to project motives onto other people about what Christmas is about for them, based on the fact that we observe them shopping, buying nice things for family and friends. I think it’s possible to spend money on very nice gifts and NOT miss the message of Christmas. Likewise, I think it’s possible to live in poverty, thinking that life would be fulfilled if only they had luxurious things, and miss the message.


    Comment by Wendi | Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. Wendi, the post was not so much of critisizing others’ motives as it was a matter of looking at ourselves (myself)critically and to ask the question how we celebrate Christmas. Someone asked the question recently how many of us can still remember what we received for Christmas a year ago. I was shocked that I could not remember.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Reply

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