When I was a small child, Christmas meant expecting surprises from well-wishers and my parents: receiving new clothes, having a meal with chicken, or taking a cup of diluted orange drink. This was a rare opportunity. Mostly such privileges could only come every few years.
But truly speaking, I longed for such gifts each year, though most years threw my expectations in the cold — no one remembered me.
As I grew up, especially when I became a father and a humanitarian worker, the meaning of Christmas started to change. This time of year is more difficult for me. Many questions reverberate deep in my heart, like asking what Christmas means and what I have done for others to demonstrate what Jesus Christ demonstrated and has continued to do, just as my favorite Scriptures — John 3:16 and Psalm 23:1-6 — say.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)—John 3:16
This inevitably reminds me of my childhood because many people played a role in who I am today. My mum reminds me we were so poor that access to food, healthcare, clean water, and education was a nightmare. But in the midst of all the hopelessness, there was hope. She told me how one doctor’s selflessness managed to save both her life and my life during labor.
In her labor pains, Mum had walked about 30 kilometers (18 miles) to a mission clinic. Her life and mine in the womb were in danger because of complications. It was either Mum, myself, or both of us to die that day. But this doctor, whose name Mum decided to give me to remember him, was so dedicated that he did all he could and turned the dark odds around for me to be here today.
Even today, this drives me to tears as I encounter similar experiences among the children I work with as a communications officer in Zambia. Some children living in rural poverty have died because they never had the rare experience where someone’s dedication saved their life. Others never ever received a gift from someone on Christmas. I call them “the forgotten.”
This has helped me realize that Christmas is a time to remember others and recommit myself to their service. Christmas is not about me expecting something from somebody, but it is about me giving something to someone in need, as God demonstrated through the gift of his son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and my doctor did their part for me, but what have I done for others?
As a humanitarian worker, I can show Christ’s love through recommitment and dedication to my work, which demands seeing myself in the shoes of the poor and the forgotten, just as Christ saw himself in us to give that free gift of salvation.
This is why I love my job. It helps me fulfill Christ’s mission, in partnership with our donors, to give a life and a future for a child who has been displaced by war in South Sudan or Syria or those without access to clean water, healthcare, food, nutrition, and education.
It gives me so much joy when I meet children smiling, beaming their hope for a better tomorrow. That’s why I celebrate Christmas.