Saturday, December 26, 2009

On Christmas Eve we attended the 8pm Mass at our parish church next door. We strolled over to the church under a moonlit sky. By 8pm the church the bells were ringing and the church was singing – standing room only! Many Muslims also attend the liturgy because they enjoy the annual Christmas pageant that is enacted by young adults & children. The pageant begins in front of the altar with a Father encircled by his children. The children are quizzing their Father about the Old Testament stories. Abraham hobbles by as the Father explains the story about God’s Covenant & the Promised Land. Later on, Moses appears when the Father is talking about the Exodus & the Ten Commandments. We hear about the prophets foretelling the birth of the Messiah. Soon an Angel appears and sings to Mary in the Annunciation scene. Afterwards, we see Mary accompanied by friends singing and dancing on her way to visit Elizabeth who is pregnant with John (the Baptist). Later Joseph is instructed by an Angel to marry Mary even though she is with child. Then we see a pregnant Mary with Joseph looking for a place to stay. They knock at many doors and sing pleadingly for a room, but there is no room at the inn. Finally, they find a stable and Mary gives birth to the Christ Child – a cause for much celebration and many ooolalations in the church! Angels suddenly appear to shepherds and the shepherds search for the star that leads them to the Christ Child. We see the Three Kings also following the shining star to Bethlehem. There was much JOY in the Church and HAPPINESS was found on many faces. The pageant closed with “Angels We Have Heard on High” in Swahili, but we were able to at least sing the refrain: Gloria in Excelsis Deo! What I found so striking was that this pageant was spoken & sung entirely in Swahili. We did not understand a word of it. Yet the entire performance was deeply moving – even in a foreign language, even in a strange and faraway land. I daresay, that the Christmas story is a story that is beyond words and beyond boundaries. It touches hearts and stirs souls.

After the pageant there was 25+ Baptisms! Imagine all those precious little ones being anointed with the graces of God!

Children from the village often play in our driveway and we love to hear them singing and laughing and playing on the see-saw. Barack, a small boy who is mentally challenged and walks with a limp often plays alone under our front window. I thought he was 5 or 6. Later on, I learned he is 14-15 years old! He has a brilliant smile! During Advent we were serenaded by the church choir practicing Kiswahili Christmas carols right outside our church. Although our home is set in from the main road, we can see and hear all the rumblings of the traffic: large trucks loaded with cashews barreling by, bajajis (3-wheeled taxis) zipping around, bicyclists carting long pieces of lumber, huge baskets of smelly fish, live goats or chickens on the back wheel of their bike. During late spring & early summer bicyclists hauling big bushels of mangos rest under our baobab tree. Our neighborhood is full of life! Oftentimes I thought I heard a baby crying outside, but it was not a baby. It was a herd of goats scurrying by our kitchen window!
And then there is the foot traffic. Women wrapped in their colorful kangas stroll down the road gracefully balancing baskets of rice, basins of salted fish, or ten-gallon buckets of water on their heads. I am always amazed by what people carry on the back of their bikes or on top of their heads! Men strolling down the road clutching live chickens by their feet or women squatting in the dirt behind a small table with pyramids of tomatoes or bunches of bananas for sale. Then there are the young boys selling handfuls of peanuts alongside the road. And the street food – yum! Mhoga, a fried cassava root, is similar to giant French fries but tastier! You might see a vendor heating up a huge pan of oil to fry some fresh octopus. And the maandazi! Much like our donut, but not as sweet. You can also find roasted corn on the cob, hot off the fire. And if you are looking for chickens, there are always hard-boiled eggs for sale – with a dash of salt! Diane.

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