Every Christmas is different. This year, I learnt all the words to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. In the past I used to stumble through verses 2 and 3, until we got to “Born that man no more may die”. This year, I could sing every line of every verse, even “offspring of a virgin’s womb”. Wow!
I suppose it helped that we sang it everywhere I went. Somehow, I don’t recall singing that many carols this year. On the Gospel hour, I’d been playing carols for four weeks before Christmas, but I didn’t sing that many. And because I knew the words, I could think of them a little more, think of the angels singing Glory to the newborn King, of His purpose on earth, of the miraculous nature of His birth. I listen to a lot of contemporary Christian music, but those old songs still have great messages.
Again, on Christmas day, I did the usual things, but in different ways. Since 2004, I’ve held a party for Nigerian students at my house. We did it again this year. I had cause later to reflect on how different each party is. in 2004, we had a great time arguing Nigerian politics, with a focus on the Niger Delta. 2005 was quieter, but 2006 was a real party. We danced and danced, as I experimented with my laptop connections to the hi-fi. This year, we had a great time too, lots of food, political talk and Nigerian showbiz gossip. Then all 12 of us watched two movies.
I reflected on the different years as I took my annual stroll through the quiet streets of Lancaster. This year was later than usual, because we’d had such a good time, the party finished late. No matter how different it was, we all shared the same thing in common, we want to enjoy Christmas. One of the students said how different Christmas is in Nigeria. In England, all the noise happens up till Christmas eve. In Nigeria, everyone’s outside; the Christians in church in the morning and everyone visiting family and friends in the evening. They didn’t understand until that morning why I’d insisted that I needed to know numbers so they could get lifts; I kept telling them that there’d be no buses, that taxis will be running at double time, and that others will be sacrificing time to pick them up.
You know why I like to stroll through Lancaster on Christmas day? It’s so quiet that you could dance in the middle of the road. It’s such a contrast; on Christmas eve, I joined the throng looking for last minute stuff. I even went to those supermarkets that’d be closed for two days, to get their reduced cold foods, etc. It’s a mad rush on Christmas eve, someone might even think the country is about to be invaded and everyone’s picking up last minute stores. But from about 4 PM, all shops begin to close, and by the evening, the city is quiet. Everyone’s indoors.
My last Christmas in Nigeria was 1992, and I still remember the differences. On Saturday, I remarked to some people that Jesus came for all. At His birth, there were humble shepherds and the wisest men. In His life, he met lepers, tax collectors, fishermen and even converted pharisees. So, it really doesn’t matter if we have a quiet Christmas or a rowdy one. Ian, my pastor (who doesn’t like being called Pastor Ian) always says there’d be a multi-ethnic heaven. I think so too. There’d be a multi character heaven, a multi language heaven; the only thing that won’t be is a multifaith heaven. For it does say that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.