There is no Christmas tree and no turkey. We have not not heard “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” one time since arriving four days ago and our gifts fit inside small stockings. Our world is stripped of some of the traps that catch me at Christmas time in the U.S where slick advertising tempts all my senses with color,slogan and promise. With this stripping has come a delightful freedom and joy. Joy in cooking over a tiny three burner gas stove with my children and substituting ingredients to mimic familiar tastes; freedom to not put pressure on each other or on the day to be something it can’t be. Tahrir Square is but a block away from where we are preparing our Christmas feast and we are acutely aware of the struggles of many just minutes from our festivities. This is Christmas in Cairo.
At a late night service on Christmas eve we sang Christmas carols in Arabic and English side by side with refugees from the Horn of Africa, Egyptian Christians, and expatriates from around the world. My senses feel alive with the joy of being here and witnessing in person this time in Egypt’s history. Here I have to wrestle with the words of Christmas carols instead of blithely singing them. Here as I read the words “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.” I ache with a longing that people may know how much God loves them.
As I watch the resilience of Egyptians continuing to hope in their world and future, I think of the hope that is personified in the birth of a small baby, helpless and fragile, yet history cannot keep silent of the joy that came that night. As night falls and I view the scenes around me from high balconies and close encounters I am reminded of the beautiful words that speak to that holy night, where a “weary world rejoiced” and woke to the miracle of a “new and glorious morn.”