“It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas,” I told my son as we crept along L Street on Saturday. We were on our way to pick up a friend at 12th Street for choir practice and this busy artery of Cap-Haitian was overrun with people. Many were spilling out of the backs of tap-taps while others hurried to fill them. Motorcyclists weaved in and out of traffic. Others stood on street corners yelling and arguing at each other above the deafening sounds of street life. It was just another typical day in Haiti.
John pointed out a few decorations strung up high on one storefront and Christmas lights on another. I did see someone wearing a Santa cap. But to me, it didn’t feel like Christmas. After seeing photo upon photo of beautifully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths on friends’ Facebook pages, not to mention all the mouth-watering desserts they planned to make, I admit a little bit of self-pity began to creep into my heart. I envisioned pictures of families gathered together drinking eggnog and munching on fruitcake or brownies. But the blaring horns and dirty streets quickly jolted me back to reality. Christmas is probably one of the most lonely times of the year for missionaries living abroad. Memories from our home country still call out to us after all these years.
All of a sudden, through the midst of the mayhem, the most beautiful song burst forth from someone’s loudspeaker. The well-known Christmas carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” seemed to take command of the airwaves around us, encircling and greeting us like an old friend. Something about those old Christmas carols stirs up familiarity in one’s spirit. John and I looked at each other and laughed at the irony of it all. Into the midst of the mundane had come the timely message of Emmanuel coming to earth. Nothing had changed the noise level in the street. People were still haggling with each other and we were still moving at a snail’s pace. Some people were just trying to get home, away from all the confusion, but our spirits had been changed and somehow, in a small way, it felt like Christmas.
Far away, in another country and at another time, the same frantic pace of life was going on. Caesar Augustus had just implemented a new tax. The market streets overflowed with merchants, hagglers, and beggars. Out in the countryside, shepherds were busy guarding sheep. Elsewhere, a woman was giving birth to a son, as so many women throughout the ages had done before her. I wonder, though, if there were some who sensed a stirring in their spirits? Perhaps as they gazed upon the unusual star, which seemed to light up the whole sky, they were keen enough to know something was afoot. Maybe, (although it didn’t yet have a name) they too felt like it was Christmas.