Time – African & Western
Arriving on time, or early, in our African context is difficult: to arrive early or on time for a meal is to imply that one has no food at home; to get immediately to the point is to imply that the person one is conversing with, along with their family and community, is of little value. From a more Western perspective to arrive late is a sign of disrespect both for the other people present and the event being celebrated, and is taken as a sign of personal lack of discipline.
My grandfather was a stickler for being on time, if not early. In my grandparents’ social circle was a couple notorious for being at least an hour late for social engagements. My grandmother, hosting a dinner, invited the notorious couple, and knowing they were always late, invited them to attend an hour early. The couple, aware that my grandfather was such a stickler for time, arrived on time – much to the consternation of all concerned!
What time should we arrive for worship? To arrive on time is to imply that there are problems at home; to arrive late is to miss the greeting and welcome. We need to develop a church culture that allows us to step away from our controlling cultural perspectives, and yet permits us to maintain the dignity that our different cultural perspectives provide.
My dream is to see us arrive a good half-an-hour before worship begins, and to gather in the gardens, using this time to greet each other, to ask the questions that give value to our existence, to recognise each other in good African Style. Then, when the first bell rings, to find our way into the church, to find a seat, to greet those sitting next to us, behind us, in front of us. When the second bell rings to fall silent and prayerfully prepare for our time with God together.
Perhaps this is a little over-ambitious, but I do ask for everyone’s cooperation in exploring this as a possible way forward.
Advent & Christmas
The call of Scripture during Advent is for us to move from darkness to light, to be transformed in preparation for the renewal of God’s call to for us in the New Year. It is a time – in the midst of the world’s busyness that we are all caught up in – to slow down, to stop, and to wait. We wait for God to speak, to act. And only then do we respond.
The Gospel calls us to a lifestyle of simplicity, and the recent economic recession has reminded us that it is possible to live more simply. The present tenuous economic recovery may tempt us to throw caution to the wind, but I do encourage us not to become victims of temptation in our Christmas spending. Let us explore other ways to be generous rather than recreating or increasing our levels of debt. Time together as families has far greater value than any material gift.
My young adult son, who has just left home for the third time – and returns weekends – has been questioning me on my goals for life and ministry. It has taken me some time to realise that he really wants to know where he fits into my life. While there is no doubt that he is not adverse to material gifts, it is my willingness to spend meaningful time in some joint activity with him that has the greater value.
What gifts will we choose to give this year that speak of the value to us of the people we give them to? How will our gifts enhance our core relationships with spouses and children, parents and siblings?
Lots of love to you all for Christmas and the New Year from Dawn and myself. I came across this Irish blessing, which I pray will find place in all our hearts:
The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and goodwill of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.