Our CEO, Scott Sanders introduces our "Being Present" Advent series with a reflection from Isaiah on what it means to pursue peace during this season.
I’m feeling homesick this Advent. In the last four years living overseas I’ve delighted in the way Tanzanians do Christmas - it’s primarily a religious festival and it receives the same treatment as Eid or even Diwali - everyone gets public holidays, public spaces are decorated a little, and those who belong to that religion have services and feasts. That means a lot less commercialism, and for us, avoiding the complicated negotiations of families.
But this year I’m feeling the distance. We work with the university Christian movement here in Tanzania, and this year we’ll be at their conference over Christmas, and I’m wishing I could be somewhere else.
I’m remembering how my family watches the Channel 9 carols on Christmas Eve, stuffing ourselves with cheese and kabana, torn between rolling our eyes at the tackiness, and tearing up when Sylvie Palladino sings, no matter which carol she’s given. I love Tanzanian worship, and it’s guaranteed there’ll be plenty at the conference, but it’s not O Holy Night.
I know my youngest sister will be a total paparazzo during the present opening, and that everyone will laugh remembering my nanny to whom we used to give the same presents every year (a bottle of Baileys, some jelly lollies, and chocolate covered ginger) and she never cottoned on. This year the time difference means we couldn’t even Skype in for presents.
I know there’ll be a game of Charades in the afternoon, with balanced teams, carefully negotiated because by his own admission Dad’s a bit of a dead weight on any team, but Mum is equal to two maybe even three average players. Meanwhile I’ll be playing a kind of game of Charades in Tanzania too, the kind where you only understand 3/4 of what’s happening around you, but the remaining quarter is where all the important things are. I won’t be laughing; I’ll be feeling vulnerable.
It feels like I am so far away from the centre of things. My church will celebrate Christ’s birth without me. My family’s joy will bubble up despite my absence.
I have been reflecting on how being present in Tanzania instead of in Australia is a Christmas discipline, and especially an Advent discipline.
One of the startling things about Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 is the inclusion of a number of women in Jesus’ line. They stand out because of their gender, and also because they are all marginal in some way. All but Bathsheba are foreigners: Tamar is the daughter of a Canaanite, Ruth is a Moabitess, Rahab is from Jericho. Bathsheba was married to a Hittite, but he was shown to be more righteous than the great king David who not only abused his position of power to commit adultery with Bathsheba, but then tried to cover it up, even to the point of arranging murder. Yet it is here, from those who are women, foreign, powerless and mistreated, that Jesus’ story is birthed.
And that’s entirely appropriate. Because Jesus was not born to privilege and power and wealth. His young parents were nobodies from a nowhere town. Yet this was where God chose to make his presence, where he comes to be with us, and to be one of us. And that continues to draw others into the story, from lowly shepherds to foreign star men.
Being somewhere other, being the other, including the other is a re-enactment of this Christmas story. To truly be present in Tanzania not Australia, with university students not our extended families, to sing songs that are not my own, is to follow our Master far from the centre to be with those on the margins, because this is where he chose to come, and where he comes still.
Tamie Davis lives in Tanzania with her husband and two sons where they partner with CMS Australia and the Tanzanian Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
Daily Reading Matthew 1
The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.