I was handing out small gifts at a senior citizens’ Christmas party in Xai-Xai, Mozambique last Saturday. I asked, “Who is the oldest?” We narrowed it down to a gentleman who was in his 80s. He came forward to get his gift and stand with the other recipients. As I turned I saw a woman behind me. I asked my translator, “Why did she come up?”
“She doesn’t know her age,” the translator responded.
What could I say? I smiled and handed her a gift, too. In previous generations, many Mozambicans who were born in a village were simply born in a hut and never obtained any legal documents. Any legal requirements could later be met by having people testify of an important event that happened around the individual’s birth or perhaps what year they were enrolled in elementary school. (The highest educational level of the 75 senior citizens was 6th grade.) The federal government requires ID documents these days and estimates people’s year of birth and randomly assigns them a month and day.
My husband Jim was speaking in church yesterday: “Some of you don’t know when you were born. The government has assigned you a birthday. Jesus was also assigned a birthday by later generations of Christians because they did not know the exact date He was born. Even though we don’t know the true birth date for some of you, that doesn’t mean you don’t exist; after all, I am looking at you and you are hearing me. In the same way, not knowing Jesus’ exact birthday doesn’t mean He wasn’t a real person. December 25th is the day the church celebrates His birthday.”
Merry Christmas! May you feel Jesus’ love and presence this Christmas season!