Christmas greetings from Gulu.
The tree is up, the Christmas music is on, the nativity scenes are out and we are very nearly starting to feel a tiny bit Christmassy. The Post Office has also done a sterling effort sorting a wonderful array of parcels (thank you so much to those generous and organised present sending super humans.)
Being in Gulu is a bit strange for several reasons, beyond the temperature difference, there isn’t really any build up to Christmas here. No Christmassy music in the market, no carol services or nativity plays. I have been really surprised how even at church the season is almost passing by without comment.
The other strange element is the mass exodus. It’s not unusual for people to travel to family for Christmas but here that involves our Ugandan and expat friends travelling big distances and being away for weeks at a time.
In some ways its nice not to be surrounded by all that it commercialised about Christmas. We have our own family traditions and with a young family we are making new ones. Connie certainly seems to have the story in her mind as most of her play includes, Mary, Jovis, baby Jesus and ‘wise kings’ who are occasionally called daddy angels.
Over dinner one evening during advent Connie declared “Jesus is coming”, we asked her when, so she simply replied in a very matter of fact tone… “Thursday”. For your information, the Thursday in question has passed. She is still honing her prophecy skills.
Ugandans don’t have many Christmas traditions other than travelling to family so our Christmas will be spent with our Aussie, Kiwi, and American friends. We are all missing family and our countries various traditions but together we are having our own Carols by Candle light/bonfire on Christmas eve. Then on Christmas day, we are showing our Texan neighbours and their friends from Mongolia, what a ‘British Christmas’ looks like. With the help of our Action Team, we’ll be introducing them to the wonders of crackers, pigs in blankets and Christmas pudding.
We are also thrilled that Joe’s beloved sister Alice is with us, our first Christmas in 5 years with family, and she has brought sprouts! The last time we spent Christmas with family was 2011 and my brother Jonny had come too. A rare and precious Christmas that feels like a different world and time.
We know that Christmas can be a painful and lonely time as well as a joyous one. So wherever in the world you are reading this and however you may be celebrating, we pray your have Christmas is filled with Peace, Joy and Wonder anew. All our Loved ones may not be with us, but we remember that Immanuel, “God with us”, is.
Lois, Joe, Connie and Reuben