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Advent Reflection: Joy to the World

Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of
reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission, from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.

By Youssoupha Nyam

Lectionary Readings:

Isaiah 52:7-10; 62:6-7, 10-12
Luke 2:8-20
John 1:1-14;
Titus 3:4-7
Hebrews 1:1-12

 ‘’I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people […] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’’ (Luke 2:10-11).

This year, the utmost privilege of writing the devotional for Christmas Day has been bestowed upon me. Although I was enthralled by that opportunity, by the same token, I felt both a mixture of humility and the self-inflicted strain to deliver a message that would be up to par with the significance that special day holds for me. Because the Nativity season, year after year, as far as I can remember, has consistently been the triggering event that brings back a flood of bittersweet memories.

In my native country [of Cameroon], situated in the heart of Africa and aptly dubbed ''Africa in miniature'' for its assortment of landscapes that can be found throughout the continent and its patchwork of ethnic and religious groups, Nativity is undoubtedly the most celebrated holiday. It is only rivaled by New Year or when the iconic soccer team, nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, is involved in an international competition, such as when they won their qualification for the upcoming World Cup. Soccer, or football, as it is termed in my motherland, is itself a “religion.”

Growing up, Advent has always been the most exhilarating season of the year. The atmosphere seemed to be filled with particles of joy, magnanimity, Christmas carols, the fragrances of Christmas trees, a regain of faith in God and humanity. I still recollect this period as the catalyst for many first and unique moments of the year; for some, the first and unique time of the year to set their feet in a worship house. I also recall it was during that time most of the less fortunate of us could enjoy our favorite dishes to one's fill, or new sparkling clothes and shiny shoes recently bought exclusively for that special occasion. We could go to the movie theater, sometimes to watch the screening of the same movie about Jesus Christ for the umpteenth time. In short, it was the time of the year when we could indulge ourselves with the hard-earned money collected by wishing ''Merry Christmas'' handed to us by generous acquaintances or unknown passers-by. It was about the only time the least of us could afford what usually seemed out of our reach.

As I grow older, many of the childhood myths I had entertained about Christmas have been debunked one after another by the rationality linked to adulthood. And today, this day, I am celebrating my eighth Nativity far away from the familiar warm weather, dusty roads, and modest surroundings of my native land. Yet I can still experience, amid the wintry weather of my new homeland, the warmth of its melting pot and the universal magic of Christmas, thanks to the adopted Jewish Son of a carpenter, born of Immaculate Conception in the humble setting of a manger thousands of years ago. Have yourself a little Merry Christmas!

Youssoupha Nyam is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.


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