It is December. And that means many Americans and others around the world are really stressed.
If you were alive in the 1980s, you might remember the advent of several types of “aid” campaigns. The biggest of these was likely Live Aid which raised millions for Africa in 1985, and particularly for the famine in Ethiopia. A year prior, a song was recorded by several musicians who banded together (called Band Aid) to record a song entitled “Do They Know Its Christmas?” (Early the next year, in 1985, even more artists grouped together as “USA for Africa” to record “We Are the World”.)
The point of the song (Do They Know Its Christmas?) is that through the hardships the people of Africa face, was/is it even possible for them to know that it was time for Christmas.
Well, having been to Africa a few times now, and having seen the parched land, perhaps the question is a fair one. Parts of east Africa are very much in a drought condition, even now. But that drought is on the land, not in their hearts. I will not suggest that all of the hearts in Africa are filled with the expectation of celebrating the Savior’s birth, nor will I suggest that their Christmas is filled with the level of giving gifts that most in America take pride in giving.
But the giving of themselves, and the expectation of Christmas is as real in the parched areas of Africa as it is anywhere else.
And that makes me wonder? Might the people of Africa sing to the Western world, “Do they know is Christmas?”
That may be a harsh statement. But let me return to the idea of stress. Stress is real, but it is often self-imposed. Each December, people complain about the number of obligations they have to fulfill. Office parties, church gatherings, making time for friends, spending a day or three of five with family (or different parts of family). Travelling and shopping with increased crowds. Not finding the right gift or not having the money for it if we do find it.
Stress. Stress! STRESS!
But for those in Africa, they are not worried about the same things. A different type of stress may be a part of their lives like having enough food to eat or having the money to send their children to a better school, but the pace of life for many in Africa is far more conducive to knowing that it is time for Christmas.
And, I am pretty sure that slowed pace is what Jesus wants for us. In fact, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come after He departed. And it is the Spirit that allows for the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5.22-23 – fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. And it is this type of fruit that is often lacking due to the hectic nature of this holiday. And, I have already heard more than once, that it is worse this year because the time before Christmas is shortened.*
*Last I checked, Christmas is still on the 359th day of the year, every year, except leap year. Yes, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is shortened this year, but again we put stress upon ourselves by waiting for certain deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday…and if we are shopping online, we should have plenty of time!
But I digress.
Now, before you claim that I am immune and am speaking from some high and mighty position, a part of this article is due to some stress I currently face. I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment and do not see a clear end in the short term. I made most of the decisions to put me in this position, so I have no one to blame but myself.
But I don’t want to miss Christmas because I am too busy. I want the peace that Jesus offers. I need the peace that He has promised. So, like most of you, I need to determine what I can do to avoid the stress. The reasons for our stress may be different, but the impact is often the same. We are short with the people we love and we do not find the time to rest.
So, as I close this week’s post, I want you to ask yourself a question I will continually ask myself over the next couple of weeks. Am I ready for Christmas? I am not referring to gifts, decorations, and festivities (of which I am not ready on any of those items yet). I mean, am I truly ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus? Am I truly ready to realize that God is with us? Am I truly ready to live in a way that shares the light He offers?
Because if I am not, or if you are not, perhaps we need the people of Africa to sing to us, “Do they know its Christmas (in America)?”