Christmas Greetings !

Christmas Eve, 2009

Jesus is coming.  Majilio (Advent) is ending.    

It is time to celebrate Kuzaliwa (Christmas).  Let us exalt the Messiah!

Please accept holyday greetings from America.

We pray the blessings of the season upon you and your family.  Please pass my greetings on to others as appropriate.  You are remembered on this day and during this season.

We remember again the prophecies of the Old Testament foretelling the birth of the Messiah.  He came.

Let us also remember the prophecies of the New Testament, foretelling how He will come again, in power and majesty and glory!  He will come again.

May you receive Christmas blessings.

In His service, always

Fr Francis and Patricia Wardega
Missionary Society of St John
Anglican Church in America

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Need For Prayer

africa_mapIn the turbulent times of the Anglican Church, mission ministry in Africa has suffered.  African churches are most often Scripturally faithful.  Their faithfulness puts the Africans at odds with those parts of the Anglican Church which are not Scripturally faithful, but revisionist in their application of the Gospel message.  Without financial support from revisionist Anglican churches, African churches suffer.  Bible colleges close.  Ministry to the poor, to those orphaned, and to victims of HIV/Aids, suffers.  In many cases, financial aid from revisionist churches comes with conditions that African churches find unfaithful as they see it.

So, times are hard, again.  OFM cannot replace those lost dollars.  OFM tries to help Africans themselves to do what needs to be done, through education of church leaders.  We ask you to pray for the work of OFM, which suffers in these times of economic hardship.

Prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favorably on that wonderful and sacred mystery of your Church, especially your mission ministry of OFM.  By the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility your plan for salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are now being raised up , and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by Him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

AMEN.

Furahaya ya Krismasi – Merry Christmas

Furahaya ya Krismasi is Swahili for “Merry Christmas.”  It tells us something about East Africa’s celebration of this holiday that “Furaha ya Krismasi” was only recently added to the vocabulary of East Africa.

The way that we celebrate Advent and Christmas is not the way that such things are celebrated and practiced in East Africa.  While most East African countries now have lectionaries of readings for every Sunday of the year, the liturgical seasons are not as finely developed as they are in western nations.

For example, most people in East Africa never heard of Epiphany or Advent.  Lent is new to the people I know.  It is only in recent years that some few East Africans began to wash feet on Maundy Thursday.  The early Anglican and Roman missionaries did not teach these things to the African peoples.

So, while we celebrate the liturgical season of Advent on the four Sundays preceding the day of Christmas, most East Africans do not have our understanding of the significance of that season.  They may have readings, which point in that direction, but have not connected that series of Sundays into a season.  I found no Swahili word for our English “Advent.”

East Africa does remember and celebrate the day of Christ’s birth.  But, they are only now realizing that December 25 is not the actual date of Christ’s birth.  There was no December 25 when Jesus was born as a human being.  We do not know the actual date of Christ’s birth.  For East Africans, it is not an easy lesson to learn that December 25 was the date that the early church picked to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation, God made man.

East Africans do not celebrate Christmas with the massive giving of gifts, decorated Christmas trees, midnight services, and exterior lighting up of their huts!  What do they do?  They do exchange a few small gifts with a few of their family.  They do gather as family for a meal together.  They may go to church if a special service is offered.  The service probably won’t be at midnight, an unsafe time to walk the rural roads of this land.

In seven trips to East Africa, I have only seen a Christmas tree once – in the Nairobi airport, a small, thin, and scrawny tree – with five lights on it..

East Africans look with amazement on the way that we celebrate this holiday.  They see it as rampant consumerism without knowing the word.  Most of them have no interest, no desire, no capability to celebrate the day as we do.

While I like some of the American ways of celebrating this holiday, it seems to me that the East African way is a purer, simpler way of remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  I am guessing that those of us with European descendents have some knowledge and memory of how our grandparents and great-grandparents celebrated the season and that such celebrations were purer and simpler than what we do now.  I guess that it is very hard for us not to be caught up in the buy-buy-buy consumer oriented society that we live in today, much to the detriment of celebrating the holyday of Christmas.  We are caught up in the American way of celebrating the holiday.  “Black Friday” is a bigger day than is Good Friday.  Sad.

What traditions of Christmas celebration have been passed on to you and what traditions are you going to pass on to your children and grandchildren?

So, depending on your choices, I wish you either “Happy Holidays” or Merry Christmas!”

Kenya in Crisis

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If you’ve been following the news at all over the past few weeks, then you know that the country of Kenya is in a state of turmoil. Kenya obviously holds a special place in our hearts since that is where the work of the Office of Foreign Missions had its start. Fr. Francis has shared some of his impressions on the current crisis and the history that has led up to it over on the Ancient Faith New Generation blog. The following excerpt will give you some sense of what is happening.

“Kenya is bleeding. People are dying. This can become a breeding ground for more blood and more death. Places I have been to, are now destroyed. People I love, hide in fear for their lives.

I ask for your prayers.”
Read It All
We join Fr. Francis in offering our prayers for peace to the Prince of Peace.