“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, 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. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
On Christmas we see many depictions of the nativity scene and most of them are beautiful, clean and etherial. I love these scenes that give me a visual of the Biblical stories of Mary and Jospeh traveling to Bethlehem and Mary giving birth to the Light of the World. However, I realize that they are a cleaned up, sanitized version of what really happened. The following story from Bob Creson, Wycliffe USA’s President and his communication assistant, Carol Schatz, gave Ryan and me a new perspective on this story that we know very well. I hope you enjoy it and see the beautiful humility of Christ this Christmas season.As the Mbe translation team in Nigeria was translating the Gospel of Luke, they came to chapter 2, verse 7: “She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”
The translators took time to ponder how to translate some of the words, but not “manger.” They immediately used the word “ókpáng.”
The “What’s an ókpáng?” asked their consultant, John Watters. “Tell me what it looks like.” One of the translators drew a picture on the whiteboard. It was essentially a cradle hung by ropes so that the newborn would be laid in it and swung.
“Read the Translator’s Notes again,” John suggested. “What do the notes say about the manger?” (“Translators Notes” is a series of commentaries in non-technical English that are especially helpful for Bible translators for whom English is a second language.)
The Mbe translators read the notes and saw that “manger” referred to an animal feeding trough. Even as the Mbe team read the notes, they objected. “We have always used the word ókpáng. We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.”
John pointed out to them that it wasn’t just a matter of tradition. God expects us to find the words that express the original meaning as accurately as possible. Furthermore, this word tells us something profound about God. “When he came to live among us and bring salvation to us, he came in the lowliest way possible. He did not come and sleep in a nice ókpáng like every Mbe mother wants for her newborn. Instead, he showed us his unbelievable humility,” John told them. “So we need to find your best word for an animal feeding trough.”
Suddenly the one who had argued most loudly for the traditional term offered, “We feed our animals out of an old worn-out basket that is not usable anymore except to fee the animals. We call it ‘ɛdzábrí.’”
“Then try that term,” said John. “Put it in your rough draft and test it with Mbe speakers.”
“As the Mbe people listened, they were visibly moved. Picturing the newborn baby lying in the animals’ feeding basket, they recognized in a new way that Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to reach them. As an adult, he would humble himself by washing the disciples’ feet and then by dying on the cross. And this humility started right from birth, when he was born to a young peasant woman under questionable social conditions and laid in an animal feeding trough.
“No word in Scripture is too unimportant to translate carefully and accurately. And no language community is too unimportant to merit the Scriptures in the language they best understand. John Watters says, “Translation in the heart language respects the people who speak it, and through the process it frees them to have a relationship with God in their own words and terms.”
Please forgive us for not mailing out Christmas cards this year. We would have loved to because we love receiving Christmas cards. But for our sanity during this crazy season of moving across the world, we decided that Christmas cards were not a main priority.However, we are planning on doing snail mail in January, not Christmas cards but something newsy. Real mail (not bills or junk mail) is fun all year long. So if we don’t have your current address please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and then we can make sure you hear the latest and greatest from Perth.
Since we don’t have the snow to remind us that Christmas is coming, we have to rely on decorated shopping malls, cheerily lit homes after dark and our own Christmas traditions to help us get in the spirit of things. Some of these things are on pause for us because we’re in transition but I can still do my best to celebrate what I can and savor the traditions I can still enjoy. Here are 14 ways that I try to remind myself of the good things about the holidays and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas.
- I blogged last week about The Season of Advent. Having Advent reading, an Advent wreath and pausing at least once a day to read scripture and pray through the season reminds me of what is important during the holidays.
- Christmas music! Once Thanksgiving has been celebrated, I am all for Christmas music. Christmas music in the car, Christmas music at home, Christmas music in almost every store I walk into. I love a good mix of secular favorites and Christian songs. Each are festive in their own way. It all makes me happy.
- Baking and making delicious goodies. I will do a little baking this week but I look forward to making cinnamon rolls for my family to enjoy one morning and I’m sure there will be cookies made at some point too. My tastebuds love Christmas. And the smell of baking treats definitely helps get me in the Christmas mood.
- Decorations! I really enjoy decorating for Christmas but this year in our home all we have is our Advent wreath because we are moving. However, I look forward to being in my parent’s home and enjoying the beautiful tree lit for the week leading up to Christmas. Next year we’re decorating right after Thanksgiving and we’ll leave it up until January 6th, 3 Kings Day also known as Epiphany. I love stretching out the holiday season and enjoying the decorations as long as reasonable to my own standards.
- Christmas movie marathons. I will watch Elf multiple times this season. We’ve already watched Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone and A Christmas Story. Tonight we will watch It’s a Wonderful Life. There are so many good ones! It’s fun to snuggle up in a warm house when it’s cool/cold outside and enjoy a good movie. I’m also looking forward to watching the TV classics like Charlie Brown, Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman.
- Walking or driving through beautiful Christmas light streets. Almost every town has a street known for the amazing Christmas decorations. It’s always fun to gather a few friends, dress warmly, carry something warm to drink and enjoy the shining lights and creativity of our neighbors.
- Opening Christmas letters and cards. In my circles, I have a lot of friends who keep in touch all year around but it’s typical to just hear major updates from people at the end of the year. I love opening cards, seeing how the families have grown and hearing about the past year. I enjoy celebrating the joys of life with people and being able to pray through the hard things too. A mailbox filled with Christmas cheer is a wonderful thing.
- Early Christmas shopping. There is nothing better than having your Christmas shopping done early. Even if things don’t get wrapped right away, I love not having to think of last minute gifts. This is definitely the planner in me but it allows me to better enjoy the holidays not having yet another unfinished list.
- Christmas wrapping. Seeing a growing pile of pretty wrapped presents is always cheery and festive. A little Christmas music or a Christmas movie and wrapping with a cup of hot chocolate is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
- Eggnog. So before this year, I never would have said that eggnog was a necessary part of the holiday but then my sister-in-law introduced me to Royal Crest Dairy eggnog and now I’m hooked. Although Royal Crest isn’t available everywhere, eggnog will definitely be a staple in our refrigerator this season.
- The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t always go and see The Nutcracker but when I can, I always enjoy it. During the holidays growing up it was always a treat to dress up and attend The Nutcracker as a family. It’s such a festive, entertaining part of the holidays. And the music is beautiful too!
- Stockings. There is something that is special about stockings to me. Leading up to Christmas, I love looking at them hanging across the mantle or on the wall if there is no fireplace. Even if we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, stockings were always Christmas morning. And my favorite tradition is always finding a tangerine in the toe. I look forward to making stockings something special for my own kids some day (this is NOT a pregnancy announcement).
- Candle Light Service. There is something particularly beautiful and celebratory about a Christmas Eve candle light service. It’s a wonderful way to calm our hearts and refocus during a busy season.
- Christmas reading. In the past couple of years I would download a Christmasy book to enjoy leading up to Christmas. Today, I sat with the pile of my childhood books that we will be shipping to Australia and read through all my favorite Christmas stories. From The Polar Express to Santa Mouse, these are Christmas classics for me. The Story of Holly & Ivy is precious and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree always makes me cry. I fondly remember reading these books as a child and I still enjoy them now.
What are the traditions that help you remember, enjoy and anticipate Christmas?