December 10, 2004
Several people have inquired about how the CCAP-Blantyre Synod celebrates the season of Advent. Do they use an Advent wreath? Are special devotional readings prepared and distributed to the entire congregation? Do the children of the congregation perform a Christmas pageant? Do you sing Christmas carols during Advent or wait until Christmas Eve? Is there a time when the congregation gathers to decorate the Sanctuary? The simple answer to all of these questions is NO! There is absolutely no sign in the CCAP-Blantyre Synod that it is Advent on the Christian calendar. In fact there are very few signs in Blantyre as a whole that Christmas is coming. With the exception of some very bad Christmas music playing in the supermarket…one would never even know that Christmas is less than two weeks away.
I have been shocked that outside of my own words about Advent, I have not heard one person mention this special season of preparation. I sat down two days ago with two of the pastors that I know quite well and asked them point blank why Advent is not celebrated in Malawi. Although they were very polite and actually very long-winded…it all boils down to the fact that they do not know very much about Advent, don’t have any traditions surrounding Advent, and they thought that it was something that catholic people celebrated. I was actually quite shocked by their answers.
I have not preached at St. James CCAP Church, where I serve as Associate Pastor, in over five weeks. I have been on the road visiting partner churches and participating in the opening of new Presbyteries (more on that later). I preach a St. James CCAP Church again on the 19th, 25th and 26th of December and you can bet that they will get a good dose of Advent and Christmas preaching from this American pastor.
The Partnership is about sharing. Advent is one thing that I think that the PC(USA) does well, and I am hoping to let the CCAP see how other Presbyterians get ready for Jesus’birth. I pray that all the commercialism of the American holiday season never reaches Africa, but an Advent wreath and some Christmas carols are certainly something that we should be telling our sisters and brothers here about. It helps us prepare for our Savior’s birth, and that is what Advent is all about.