Monday, December 26, 2016

The Surreality of Christmas

[Matching grant update - So far we are at $5100 out of the $7500 that can be matched!  Praise God!  If you still want to give, we still have time.  Go here for details.]

I don't know about you but Christmas often feels a bit surreal to me.  Chestnuts roasting by an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your toes, Yuletide carols being sung by a all sounds so cozy and warm.  And at our house, we attempt to create this warm environment.  Christmas lights, Christmas baking, buying loved one gifts that will make them smile, devotions around the Advent wreath...all contribute to capturing this aura.

And yet...

We continue to hear stories of what is happening in Syria.  We continue to hear of terrorist attacks.  We continue to hear of people suffering from illness, disease, and our loved ones die.

So surreal.

A story just came out on BBC Africa (my go-to news site) that brought this juxtaposed reality to the forefront again.  The title:  Kenyan girls hide in schools to escape FGM (female genital mutilation). December is often a time of initiation rites for girls and boys in different parts of Africa.  This news report said that one out of five women in Kenya, between the ages of 15 and 49, has been circumcised despite the fact that Kenya made the practice illegal in 2011.  That number is astounding to me.  But in other countries (Egypt, Somalia, Guinea, and others), the number is as high as 90% of all women.

To bring the reality home a bit more, the article listed what types of FGM there is and what is done:
The tools often used.
•Clitoridectomy - partial or total removal of the clitoris
•Excision - removal of the clitoris and inner labia (lips), with or without the outer labia
•Infibulation - cutting, removing and sewing up the genitalia
•Any other type of intentional damage to the female genitalia (burning, scraping etc)
Too much information, you might be thinking?  I agree.  It is horrifying to read.  I can't imagine what it is like to undergo it, not to mention that it is usually done without any sort of anesthetic or hygienic facilities.

So while I bake and sing Christmas carols, girls are hiding in Kenya so that this won't be done to them.

What do I do with this juxtaposed reality?  Should I feel guilty about the peace and safety that I enjoy in the US?  Should I deny myself the pleasantries of Christmas in order to better relate to my suffering brothers and sisters around the world?

I don't think that is the solution.  The reality is that these are surreal times and we have to exist in one, while being aware of the other.  It means we pray with fervor, we act when appropriate, we temper our complaints for what is appropriate given our givens, and we live below our means to be able to bless those who are less fortunate than us.  Romans 12:15 tells us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."  It's not an either/or.  It's a both/and.  We live with a foot in both worlds.  We choose to do that and not ignore one because it is uncomfortable.  We smile and celebrate, and our mind flashes to those in pain.  Does it make us feel a bit crazy at times?  Absolutely.  And it makes sense that it does. 

Titus 3:3-7 reminds us of the gift that we received because of the birth of Christ:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
The country I was born in might not practice FGM, but we have been disobedient, deceived and enslaved by other things.  We all need the mercy that we have been given through the desire of God the Father to have fellowship with us, in the gift of His Son, Jesus.

And so we sing.  We rejoice.  We weep.  We love.

To the glory of God.  Amen and Amen.

From our house to yours, we wish you a blessed Christmas season and the peace of Christ in your hearts in 2017.