Our First Village Christmas

Our family has had the privilege of having Christmas in many different countries, provinces, states, cities and villages around the world over the years.  In fact, since Jill and I were married 26 years ago, this year will be very unique, for this will be the first time we have had Christmas in the same home in the same city two years in a row.

But of all the Christmases that we have had, I think we would both say that our most memorable one was in 1997, the year we had our fist Christmas in our village in Papua New Guinea.  We had been living only 6 months in the village by the time Christmas came around.  Everything was still fresh and exciting.  But we also felt so cut off from the outside world, which made sense, seeing as we were living by an airstrip cut right out of the jungle, many miles from any other town.

And it certainly didn’t feel like the “Christmas season” as we sweltered in the 30+ Celsius weather.  There were no stores to go Christmas shopping in our village, no lights being put up on other houses in our neighborhood.  There was a church in our village, a Catholic sponsored village meeting-house made from bush material.  There was not much to look at in our village, not even our own western-style house with its corrugated tin roof, but bush material siding was that attractive.

So we decided that we would go all out, as much as possible, to make Christmas come alive for us, and for the people of the village.  We had brought over with us quite a few strings of lights with us, so we hung up our Christmas lights on the edge of our roof and covered most of the front and side with the lights.  And because we had solar panels and deep-cell batteries, we could turn on our lights at night.  Wow!!  You should have seen the curiosity and the excitement of the people in the village.  They were so fascinated by these blinking lights, that some of them sat on the airstrip and just stared at them for hours on end.

Well, the next important item for us was to set up a Christmas tree and our little nativity scene.  A church had sent us a Christmas tree to use while we lived in PNG.  What a special present that was for us to get.  And so, in the little entry way at the front of our house we put up all our inside decorations, the tree, and our nativity scene.  (The picture below is actually from 2000).

Now the tree and nativity scene were close enough to the front screen door that when children from the village would come up our outside stairs, they would see them while sitting on the platform.  And Jill would come and explain to the children what Christmas was about, and especially would point out the manger scene where Jesus was born.  But one bright young boy said to her one day, “But where is Baby Jesus?  I see Mary, and Joseph, and the Shepherds, but I don’t see Baby Jesus!”

It was very hard not to smile at the question, because it was a good one.  We had kept the little figure in the box.  And Jill’s answer was, “It’s not the 25th yet.  He wasn’t born until Christmas Day.  But if you come back on the 25th, I’m sure he will be here.”  And for the next week up until Christmas, the kids would run up the stairs to see if, just in case, the Baby Jesus figure had arrived.

Now what do you think happened on Christmas morning?  Just as dawn was breaking (about 6 a.m.), we heard some noise at our front door.  I looked out the window, and crowded on our platform was over a dozen little kids from the village, and just as many down below.  When we opened the door, the kids looked in directly at the nativity scene, and there was the little figurine in the manger.  And with a squeal of excitement the kids all broke out, “Baby Jesus!  Baby Jesus!  He did come!”

Well, I must say that made our day, that Christmas morning 13 years ago.  To see such excitement among the children as they ran back through the village telling everyone to come to our house to see Baby Jesus.  It made me feel like we were back there at the Manger 2000 years ago and witnessing the first burst of joy of the angels, and then of the shepherds, as they announced the birth of the Messiah, the Emmanuel, God with us.

May you too rejoice on this Christmas Day, and celebrate the Good News, that in the town of Bethlehem, a Saviour has been born for us.  Hallelujah.