And the Holy Spirit was invited to take over a small congregation of only 11 people in a humble church in Guinda, December 24, 2011. The email invitation said we will be singing Christmas Carols with a service from 10 pm to Midnight. There was only one church in the rural town of Guinda and it was Methodist. It was the church Anand's grandfather had been the pastor of some 70 years ago. Anand had never been in the church for a service and it was an inspirational moment for both of us who usually are in bed before the hour.
The air was crisp and there were only two cars in the parking lot. A dark faced child was peeking through the window just as the stars were twinkling in the black sky. Anand and I wondered did we have the right event at the right place? He got out and spoke to an elderly grandfather as he was called and then returned to the car to tell me we had been invited in. Something was distinctly different. All the girls had plaited hair and were ebony skin colored. We were greeted with an embrace. It was now 10 pm. The eldest woman took to the microphone and said, "We are going to celebrate the birth of Jesus Africa style, in our tradition." Then the two male drummers took to their instruments and the Holy Spirit did take over. Anand and I may have looked odd as we were the tallest of them all. I am short at 5'4" while Anand is 5'9". We surrendered to the rhythms of a distant country while the choir sang in the native tongue of Liberia. Their harmonic voices were ethereal.
Jesus must have prepared a birth place for us for I do not usually attend a Christian Church. Every song the choir sang was accompanied by hands pulsing rhythms on the drums making it impossible for me to sit still. I was "dancing in" the birth of Christ African Style. As their tradition, Anand and I sat in opposite pews which made for less distraction of the sexes. When a girl beckoned me to move closer, I turned my head around to see if she was talking to someone else. There was no one in the church but those I saw in front of me. The feeling was reminiscent of my own young adult life when I always felt invisible especially in a church. Clearly she was calling me to move in closer to the choir. I pointed to myself and said, "Me?" I was given an African rattle. Anand was handed a tambourine. The sounds produced by these instruments surely enchanted the Christ himself.
And then Grandfather came to the front and stood by the pulpit and prayed for us, the sick and the poor. He prayed for the leaders of, Washington, Moscow, Paris and Africa. He spoke about faith and the miracle it was for them to be able to praise God without the fear of a rouge bandit with bullets from his machine gun tearing all the flesh down. In our church Satan was the only force to be brought down that evening so as the Christ would descend through the roof. The veil thinned while he prayed and entranced I was one of them who fell torn by violence. Grandfather continued to pray with heartfelt fervor. Most of his words were difficult to decipher with his thick Liberian accent. Yet prayer is as prayer does and what you are meant to hear and feel shall be.
There was an African heartbeat in the middle of Guinda, CA, last night. A refugee, his wife and grandchildren found a way to thank God and celebrate the birth of his son, Jesus. It was a birth for me for I have been learning to pray to Jesus and for them it was exclusive. I received a lesson in prayer last night and to top it off we prayed for President Obama. At midnight the music stopped and we hugged. We exchanged small bits of information of ourselves. The joy I felt was holy. Without saying it aloud Jesus told me, " I am a Black Man." Later Anand said, "Jesus was born in Palestine." This thought continues this afternoon while two ruby crowned headed hummingbirds outside my window are chasing one another. We must make holy the lands where the birth of Christ had been. We must make holy our thoughts about the differences in skin color and culture; the Holy Spirit will and does find a way to lead us to kin.
Harkening to the spirit of this word, I greet you in respect, in remembrance of a birth and another birth that we shall soon witness again in 2012.
Be in love