We are back in Canada celebrating Christmas with family. I wrote this a few weeks ago and now I am finally am posting it here. Enjoy.
It’s Christmas time and, while we don’t have the cool weather and snow here in Haiti to remind us of the season, we have heard Christmas type music in the stores since the end of October. There are light displays at the grocery stores and trees (twigs in a can) and artificial spruce for sale along the side of the streets. Under these conditions Christmas can feel real kitschy, an assortment of different visuals from different traditions working on the failed attempt of helping us feel somewhat sentimental for this season.
We were feeling a need to get into Christmas a little earlier this year so the tree was up and some lights were strung by mid-November and we started playing the Christmas music. I think we are feeling Christmassy.
One of the differences we have noticed in Haitian protestant churches is that most do not follow the liturgical calendar. Advent, Epiphany and Lent are not celebrated; so at a recent staff devotional time I spoke about the season of Advent. I talked a little about the reason some church traditions practice this time of waiting and longing and the practice of lighting a candle each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas day and then the lighting of the centre white Christ candle on Christmas day. My description and explanation of this practice set off a cultural enriching discussion for me.
Because of the strong resemblance of the Catholic traditions and practices to voodoo, historically the protestant church here has removed anything from their churches and worship traditions that looks or feels liturgical or has symbols of any kind including stain glass windows, crosses and burning candles. I was told I would never find candles burning in a Haitian protestant church or in the home of good Christians as symbols for anything. The only purpose for a candle is for light to see by. I was also told that sometimes the burning of candles for some reminds them too much of the candles that voodoo practitioners use.
Here in Haiti I miss the liturgy, the candles, and the Advent wreath, but as we celebrate this Christmas season we wait in the hope and expectation that a new thing is happening here.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The richness of these words from Isaiah 40 reminds us again of the hope Jesus brings. From time-to-time we catch glimpses and hear stories of “rough ground becoming level and rugged places plain” and so we focus on the waiting and the longing for the restoration of all people and all things to the way they should be, the way they were created to be.
With or without candles it is our hope that Haitians will experience the peace, joy, love, and hope that comes through the salvation Jesus brings.