Earlier this month, the older kids and I piled ourselves into my tiny bedroom to watch The Nativity Story. There must have been 20 or more of us huddled very close together around a small laptop screen. I put on the subtitles, knowing that the little speakers on the computer would not suffice for the entire room to hear. Initially, the kids tried to read along with the subtitles, but they soon tired of that little game, which was just fine with me!
I learned something as I watched the movie with the kids. The Christmas story looks entirely different through the lens of a child raised in a war-torn nation, and, I think their lens is much closer to that of a Jew in Jesus’ day than is our lens in the west.
What do I mean by that? Well, Mary and Joseph knew what it meant to be oppressed. They were living in the middle of a military occupation, being unjustly taxed, and facing a census- the first while Quirinius was governor of Syria. The populace was composed primarily of illiterate, uneducated people, and God spoke through dreams. It’s amazing how simply and immediately Joseph obeyed the instructions from his dreams. Imagine what might have been had Joseph rolled over and ignored the instructions to “get up and take Mary and the child to Egypt.” The Jews lived in a dangerous time under capricious leaders. Many people were filled with fear, but the promise of a coming Messiah offered at least a weak hope for what life could be.
Today in southern Sudan, the people live under the oppressive gaze of the northern government. Corruption is rampant, and last year, the people here experienced a census of their own- the first while Salva Kiir was governing southern Sudan. 🙂 Southern Sudan has a primarily illiterate and uneducated populace. God speaks to many of His children here through dreams, and they are very often willing to trust Him and follow His guidance. Although depression, fear, tribalism, and hatred hang low, like a heavy cloud over this region, there is an eager anticipation in many hearts for the promise of a future of peace and restoration.
Jesus was sent to fulfill the hopes and desires of so many Jewish hearts, although He looked very little like what they expected. Yet, His coming meant hope fulfilled, abundant life, freedom, and the ushering in of a new Kingdom. Jesus’ advent offered a new and transformed reality for the Jewish people- if they would have Him.
Today, in Sudan- as in all the world- the reality of Jesus’ coming that first Christmas offers a living hope! Perhaps the proximity of the situation here in Sudan to that of the Jews of Jesus’ day makes the Sudanese more eager to embrace this new Kingdom reality than many people in the west.
But, if you have not yet begun your journey into the reality of God’s Kingdom, don’t allow another Christmas to pass without talking to Jesus about that! Seriously. Living hope, radical peace, overwhelming joy, and total world transformation is available to us in Jesus!!! For far too long, this “Christian thing” has been hijacked by a bunch of angry and miserable, rule-quoting, “life-with-Jesus-is-suffering,” “suck-it-up-until-the-hereafter” people. Enough!
came at Christmas to model a different way of living! Jesus longs to take us on a beautiful adventure into His idea of life – a dynamic journey of world re-creation
with Holy Spirit!!!
is good news this Christmas – especially in a warzone.