Feed the World

Let them know it’s Christmas time 🎶 You have not heard this 1984 Band-Aid favorite song? Never fear, the link is here. Or maybe you would prefer, Celine Dion’s ‘And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?’ You guessed it, the Christmas season is finally here. Is it your Most Wonderful time of the Year? We could do this all day…such fun.

Bob Geldorf and his pals were moved to avert a crisis in Ethiopia. There was a famine, a terrible famine that was documented by the BBC and caused everyone to want to do something. So that Christmas and the one after that, Band-Aid raised about £8M for the relief effort.

4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Matthew 4:4 NKJV

And so this is Christmas, what have you done? You have fed the hungry, well done! But Jesus, whose birthday is the reason for the Christmas celebration says there is more to life than food. Food offers temporary satisfaction, I recall all the Christmas dinners my mum cooked but that’s it. No more to feed on it again. Jesus is the Word in the Beginning, the Word that was spoken and everything we know was formed. so He should know what He is talking about.

Christmas time is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. Because our Savior was born on Christmas Day. And we need a savior because on our own we cannot save ourselves from the fallen nature of this world. When He became the Word incarnate, He showed us what to do.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Jesus did feed the hungry, 5000 of them in one go. It is important but not the most important. The most important is to feed the World with the Word of God. Every problem in this world is a sin problem. Even within relief agencies who are humanitarian, they fall short and their corrupt environment should be a reminder that there is more.

So this Christmas, would you lead someone to Jesus? So they are not only filled with a sumptuous Christmas dinner but remain with the Bread of Life all the days of their lives. The satisfaction is guaranteed by Jesus Christ.

Terror

Transformers, Dark of the Moon is what we were watching. Again for the umpteenth time. My first encounter with transformers were as fascinating toys, that came as trucks but could be changed into an action figure. Well, here we were in someone’s imagination, on what those toys could do.

When the decepticons invade Chicago to set up the bridge, their first priority is to cause terror so the humans flee and cannot stop their mission. Eventually though Sam comes with the soldiers to rescue Carly and the decepticons up their game! Shockwave brings in his drill that destroys an entire sky scraper! Horror! Where do we go to from here? In Dark of the Moon, the humans are like props on a set but being human, I cannot help but imagine if this happened in my own city, (Scooby and Shaggy teeth chattering)

It dawned on me that all terror starts in this same fashion. A few decepticons are sent to cause a few ruffles to fly. During the 1985 into 1986 war, we developed a running reflex! If you saw a group of people running in a certain direction, you dropped whatever it was you were doing and run in their direction. Why? It was the only signal we had of an attack. You just knew that people were fleeing from danger. Oh my, it was so bad, that way into the 90s, people would hear a tyre burst and run. And cause others to run as well. My children find this story very entertaining, btw.

Then the object of the terror becomes the clear focus and the intent is still to intensify terror in the hearts. As Shock wave’s drill, comes up through a street in Chicago, destroying everything in it’s path. You know, you should not be anywhere near it. However, when it systematically weaves its way through the sky scraper and crushes it like one does ice in a blender. The levels of horror in the heart have gone up. Eh! The sound effects do not make it any easier, neither do the shots of people trying to run as the building is being crushed. Horrifying. Mass graves, rape, mutilation and destruction of key land marks in war are designed for this very purpose. Terror that causes one to stand still like a deer looking at headlights.

Photo credit: Pinterest

5 You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday.


Psalm 91:5-6 AMPC

And all this is going on, there is the final battle that the autobots and Optimus Prime must prepare for. The battle of slander. Sentinel Prime and Megatron seem to have outwitted the autobots and Optimus Prime. They slander Optimus, taunt him and try to weigh him down. Slander is such a wicked tool, because it tags at your heart and mind. It causes you to stay still because you are double minded. Is this person for me or against me? A person who was for me would not say such a thing? Or conversely, your enemy will offer a truce as did Megatron? But it’s a Trojan horse. Optimus Prime decapitates Megatron and destroys Sentinel Prime bringing an end to this battle.

What has terrified you? God’s promise is if you remain in His Shelter, you shall not fear. You shall not be terrified. Return to His stronghold and find reprise from the terror, from the pestilence, from destruction and sudden death.

Who has come against you? To win the battle of terror, you must be clothed in physical and mental might. All are found in the Shelter of the Most High God. Are you wearied from too much violence? Return to your shelter, let the Father dress you in His compassion.

He is not here

The end of a rope. I have not had an occasion to run out of rope. However, we did run out of road this one time. Hilarious right! So we were cruising on Mombasa road heading back to Malindi, and part of that road was so bad, you didn’t know whether you were on the road or off the road. Well, not quite. It was really bumpy, so at one point, we noticed how smooth it has gotten. Only to hear our driver say, “oops, we run out of road!” We were driving on the shoulders at that point. He quickly course corrected and we were back to our jostling.

Not so many situations are this great. Most of the Hallmark movies have a scene where the family of the patient are in the waiting room and the surgeon walks in, still in his scrubs,and says ‘Doctors have done all they can… but he/she didn’t make it!’ Hearts broken. Sad theme music. And it’s done. You may rewind but you will always get back to that point and the doctor will walk to the waiting room in his scrubs. There is a finality about death.

Then there was COVID and the dynamics changed completely. No more wakes. No more ashes to ashes and dust to dust by the grave side. No more laying wreaths on caskets. No more viewing the body. Just the ‘angels’ coming in, spraying their paths with chloroquine. And ensuring everyone stays far away. Strangers burying a strangers. Loved ones estranged. There is a stillness about death.l

https://www.afro.who.int/sites/default/files/2020-10/WHO_2554.JPG

Early, one Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary made her way to the tomb to finish dressing the body of her Rabbi, Jesus. She finds the tomb empty and goes back to tell Simon Peter. Simon and John run to the tomb, to find indeed it is as she said. They return to their homes. The emptiness of this phrase points to the hollowness of death. Mary remains in the garden distraught, weeping and recounting the same phrase as grief is bound to do. The angels ask why she is weeping. They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him. Even after the angels have told her. She looks up to see someone and in her grief, she recounts the same phrase for him.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

John 20:15 NKJV

Mary’s pain is raw. The raw pain missed in Hallmark movies. I was hurrying to the hospital when the call came, it was my dad. He calmly asked where I was and I told him I was rushing to the hospital and apologized because I was so late. I cannot remember anything else he said, but I do recall that he told me mummy passed away in the early hours of the morning. Ohhhh, those words cut through my brain like a butcher’s knife. Right to my physical heart, the only response was a loud wail. I stopped the car in the middle of the road. I felt the sun had to stop rising and darkness should come and cover me. But it did not. I felt like my life was over but it was not. I just kept repeating over and over, mummy has passed on. It void statement. It was devoid of meaning. Because what was a world without a mummy. From the day of my birth, mummy had been there. When I cried, I would cry for my mummy. When I was in labour, my mummy was there. Now in the moment that was like the worst, she was not there. There is a loneliness about death.

Jesus, just like He did for Mary, whispered, ‘Dora, why are you weeping?’ She is not here. She is risen. May hope arise dear reader in your heart. The One who is the Resurrection and the Life. The One who is the firstborn over all creation. He is not dead, He is Alive. Because He lives you can face anything. Look to Him, He is your Lifeline and Waymaker.

Advent 2020: Living in the shadow of Death

The Christmas season started early at my home. My husband and sons decided that November 1st the Christmas tree should come up, and up it went. It’s been a long year. We have been locked down at home since March experiencing the ‘new normal’, why shouldn’t the Christmas traditions change?

The new normal brought with it, a lot more quiet. A restrictive quiet. A solitary confinement quiet. A naughty corner quiet. The infamous SOPs- wear a mask, sanitize frequently, temperature checks and curfew have made a quick dash to the market or grocery store so inconvenient. The social distance that needs to be maintained at public gatherings means I cannot share jokes with my neighbors, there are no more hugs and handshakes, it’s not fun anymore. I have spent more time online and in quiet nooks looking for the best network signal than anywhere else. Very introverted but it became the perfect setting for the reflection of Advent and revisiting the Christmas story.

When I first heard of the coronavirus, it was a bug like flu somewhere in China and everyone was wearing masks. China seemed so far away, so distant, totally unrelated to my equatorial corner of sub-Saharan Africa (we are not even in the same hemisphere) and so much less to my own environment. Then the devastation began, with lockdowns and massive death counts. As I was reviewing material for a Sociology lesson, a CNN interview of nurses from one of the worst hit nursing homes in Washington state, I began to observe the devastating toil the disease had on emotions of the nurses and families. To observe through a glass darkly, the effects of quarantine and the immediate need for ventilators. My niece, Keitangaza who passed away on 28th December 2017, needed a ventilator to breathe and there was none available. This took my breath away for a moment. When it hit the Octogenarians in Italy and wiped them out like a plague, the number counter became a siren wail. Uganda still has a very young population but my parents’ generation, most of them are Octogenarians. It was too close for comfort, anxiety set in and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Then it came for us, Uganda managed to contain the deaths and spread. With the gradual reopening, it has come close to home. I know people who have had it and survived and I know people who have had it and died. Such terror and distress.

While reading the Matthew and Luke’s elaborate details of the Birth of Jesus, it soon became apparent that our ‘Christmas spirit’ as portrayed in most of the Christmas movies is slightly off the mark. Actually, if the Christmas movies had been set in 2020, they would have been so on point.

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:16-18 NKJV

The shepherds, were going about an ordinary day’s work, in a season where Augustus Caesar had ordered a census throughout the Roman Empire. Every man had to go back to his home town. Israel was an occupied territory, and so Bethlehem as one of the towns of Judah must have been packed with so many long lost relatives, Romans, transit travellers, yet the shepherds did not have time for chit chat. They were tending their sheep in the field. God, in His wisdom, found it very important to send a host of angels to these busy men. Not the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away, and not to the Romans who were conducting the census. Rather to shepherds, forgotten like David.

The shepherds, left their sheep and rushed to the place the angels told them and found Jesus lying in a manger. This was exactly what the angels had said they would find. They rejoiced to find the Messiah and shared the news widely. How exciting it must have been to see the Word incarnate.

Christmas is the Season to rejoice for those who like the shepherds have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord- we have received peace and goodwill. Tis the Season to make widely known the good news, ‘the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want even in the valley of the shadow of death because ‘our the Christ (the anointed one who saves) was born on Christmas day.’

Later, as a child, Jesus is visited by the Wise Men. These Wise Men make a long journey following a star to worship Jesus. In Jerusalem, where they stop, no one had paid attention to the very same star and no one had heard the news from Bethlehem. The Wise men were warned by an angel not to go back to Herod. And Joseph was instructed to take his family to Egypt by an angel. After the visit, the young family had to flee to Egypt by night. And Bethlehem experienced grief like none other, was it not the Messiah they rejoiced to receive? All their young males under the age of two, were massacred by Herod. The heart gripping pain of losing a young child senselessly, who would console them?

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

Matthew 2:16 NKJV

Within the Christmas carols is one about Good King Wenceslas, who looked out on the Feast of Stephen. Traditionally, that would be today, Boxing Day. Stephen was one of the seven men ‘of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom’ appointed to handle the Church business so the Apostles could continue with the Ministry of the Word and prayer. (Acts 6).

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 6:8 NKJV

For all this glowing tribute from Dr. Luke, Stephen is the first Christian martyr. He was falsely accused for blasphemy and even when the Council saw his countenance as one of an angel, and were cut to the heart by his words, they did not receive Jesus as the Christ and stoned him death in Jerusalem. His death was witnessed by a young Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul, a bondservant of Christ.

How does one move from gorging themselves on so much turkey and rich Christmas cake to a celebration of martyrdom? One does not. Christianity carries within all its celebration, the death and resurrection of Christ. Christianity also carries within all its death, the life of Christ, eternal and glorious. It is impossible to separate Christmas from Good Friday and from Easter. It is impossible to separate the pain and suffering of calvary from the joy of Christmas and the glory of the resurrection.

It is in beholding the lamb of God, swaddled in remains of priestly garb lying in an ordinary manger that we are able to see Him carry our sins at Calvary and then at last like Stephen, see the Lion of Judah seated at the Right Hand of the Father.

Lord, thank You that while troubles and pain will come, your tender mercies sustain me through them giving me life and peace. In uncertainty and instability, I choose today to re-anchor my life in Your goodness, Your faithfulness and Your mercy towards me. Amen From Lectio365

The hand you are dealt

It all started with my brother’s status. He posted a picture of the val d’orcia ,Tuscany and suddenly , I was hearing theme songs from Gladiator.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

What a short and very poignant summary of the movie. Maximus a Roman General , a victim of greedy and wanton Commodus. Victorious from battle one minute poised to be the next Emperor, next he is nothing but the scum of the Roman Empire. Despondent, despairing.

Lately, Christmas season has been a series of disappointments. Reflectively, I have not lost as much as Maximus, incomparable even. His was the true meaning of How the Mighty have fallen. Nevertheless, the Christmas season has always been poised as a happy one, glad tidings, great joy and all that. The first thing to go was Santa, there is no 🎅. So naughty or nice, that doesn’t matter, he is not real. As a working adult, there were no holidays. So this ‘happy holidays!’, that was not real either. Lately though it has been a reminder of loved ones not present at the dinner table, their jokes no longer ring in their air. When their favorite carols are played, they are not present to sing along. Sigh, sigh. This year as I reread the Nativity story, it slowly dawned on my already fragile belief system that the Magi were not numbered, they did not visit Baby Jesus in the manger. They followed a star, the people who do that now are called astrologers. Hmm. Then there was neither stable nor inn. The Jews had an upper room like the One the disciples prepared for the Last Supper. That was the ‘inn’. So the upper room of their hosts was full, they slept downstairs with the animals. So many Christmas carols, nativity plays went with this one.

As I watched Maximus, grieve over his murdered wife and son, I wondered how does one go through the motions of life when all has been taken away? Or when you realize that the Empire whose values you upheld has destroyed it in one swift moment and you are completely undone? What happens when all your achievements are weighed and deemed irrelevant because you will not bow to the whims of wickedness? And all your dreams and aspirations are crushed because you will not believe in a lie?

The crucible.

Paul writes to the Galatians and tells me that if he were to please men, he would not be a bondservant of Christ.

In the crucible, you answer the question, whose bondservant am I ? Maximus remained the loyal servant of Marcus Aurelius. He would not bow to Commodus. He chose slavery. The drudgery, the angst over the whims of an unstable lunatic Commodus.

Christmas reminded me of the One, in whom all things consist, the One who is before all things. He chose me, He chose to love me in close proximity. We have beheld His glory, full of grace and truth. He chose pain and death so I wouldn’t die. I found myself singing Easter hymns at Christmas:

when I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died My richest gain, I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.

With the angels, I worship and sing Gloria in Excelis Deo. With the shepherds, I sing what child is this?

Hope floats

Proximo, the most unlikely person sees him for who he is. He picks him out and Maximus remembers who he is. I am Maximus Decimus Meridus, General of the Felix legions. He may not be advancing Rome but by winning the games for Proximo, he will be free. Free to dream again in Rome. He becomes the best gladiator. he leads the best team. He meets Commodus.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

Now we are free (you need to listen to the sound track👌 as played by the 2 Cellos)

Paul also writes to the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made them free and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Proximo dangles freedom to men born free. Commodus takes away freedom, chains it and throws away the key. Maximus has one thing left, vengeance. He sets himself to avenge the deaths of his beloved Marcus Aurelius, his wife and his son. Everyone rallies behind him, Cicero, Lucilla, the gladiators, his army, Proximo, the crowd. He gets vengeance. He is free.

When are we truly free? When we have all we ever wanted? When we die?

I agree with Paul. When you meet Jesus, you are free indeed. He is the resurrection and the life, though you die yet you live. All earthly freedoms are valuable, they can be traded against each other and for other trinkets. Not so the freedom in Christ, it is sealed and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. God Himself is the guarantor of my freedom.Christmas has become a symbol of a never ending freedom.

Like Maximus, Now I am free.

I stand fast in the liberty by which the babe in the manger, the lamb of God has set me free.