Saturday, 13 December 2014


Christmas – a time so full of memories. It can be a wonderful time, but for some it is a very lonely and therefore a painful time.


When I first took ‘the wings of the morning’ and found myself, a ‘Singleton’, in the Highlands of New Guinea, it could have been tough, but we have a wonderful God who wants to teach us contentment.


Since Mary and I had left the religious movement in which we had been brought up, Christmas had become a difficult time, but there had been healing over the years, and I was looking forward to the gift of us four siblings being together with our Mother before I left this land, maybe for good. Alas, it did not work out.


Now, living in the wonderful mountains of New Guinea, and hearing the ‘bello’ calling us to church, I realised just how good God had been in permitting that sad, tearful Christmas day back in the ‘old country.’ God now was teaching me that Christmas is not dependant on family gatherings. It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. 


These people, called out of a stone age civilisation, and needing and loving the same Saviour as we do, were now my family. The other single missionaries, mostly from down under, in a special way, were family too and after  joyful service in the church we celebrated together. Godliness with contentment was God’s special gift to me that Christmas.


‘No, I don’t mind being alone for Christmas,’ I told my colleagues in Ghana, some years later, who were planned elsewhere. But then an invitation to visit colleagues up north  seemed a tempting offer.  I set out for the bus station, but failed to get suitable transport.  Waiting long hours in the bustle and confusion, with soldiers shouting and threatening, I was given a little insight into what it was like for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. I returned to my village disappointed, but God had a special, if different Christmas for me.


I was able to accompany our local Ghanaian pastor and his wife as they set out to visit some of their far flung churches.


No it was not a Christmas of indulgence and feasting. The roads were long and dusty, and when we arrived unannounced, the service might be over, but the people soon gathered again and what a time of joy and celebration. Our Saviour, born in poverty and laid in a manger, was present among us, our risen Lord.


But what about a Christmas dinner? I was starving.


We stopped at a wayside stall and the pastor bought us a coconut each. I had never had such a delicious drink. It satisfied my hunger and thirst. Jesus’ birthday had been different, but special that year too.


My own family are too frail to gather with me now, as they have done of recent years, but Joel left me the heritage of a loving family and I am loved and welcome in their hearts and home. And I have a very special Christmas blessing of being able to go  into the schools to tell the children about Jesus’ birthday. Today I have been telling how some mother in Bethlehem, hearing of the baby in the manger, sent the children to say they would make room for the Holy family in their home. (We know someone did, for by the time the wise men arrived they entered into a house.)

And we too can make room for Jesus in our hearts and homes.


So, whatever our circumstances, I pray we will all make room for Jesus in our situations, and that we will be surprised by the joy of his love and provision, and yes, his very presence.