Greetings in Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. As you read this, we are in the midst of the holiday season, a time of joy and celebration. One of the things we most look forward to during this time is seeing family and friends again. I was fortunate enough to grow up with my family very close around me, we were able to get together for birthdays and other celebrations, not to mention the ‘big’ holidays. One of the most important parts of Christmas was family.
In my first column in October, I told you a little bit about the sacrifices the Lutheran seminary students in Pretoria, South Africa, make in order to study. Today I would like to tell you about my roommate, Bongani. Bongani has left a wife and two children behind at his home near the Swaziland border. Campus life in Pretoria does have breaks, but like many of the students he cannot afford to go home during those breaks. He left his family behind to come to the city and study at the seminary. During my three weeks in Africa, I was able to share in his life as a seminary student. Bongani started out very quiet and thoughtful, but while we were together he opened up another side that included soccer and an incomprehensible card game. While he seemed to be enjoying his time at seminary, every day I walked by a picture of his wife and children, waiting for him back home.
The question running through my mind as we lived among those men was, ‘Why do they do this?’ The answer is quite simple, really. They sacrifice so much to attend seminary so they may learn how to tell people about Jesus. They give up Christmases with their families to have the opportunity at future Christmases to speak of the real reason for Christmas. They have a burning desire to preach how on the first Christmas, God sent His Son as a little baby to save humanity from eternal punishment. They want to preach how this little baby grew up to die on the cross for each and every one of "you." That is why they sacrifice so much, so they can teach about Jesus Christ, who became man for you. During the Christmas season, they are missing their families, but their focus is on Jesus, who was born as the Savior to "all" mankind in a stable in Bethlehem.
We invite you to come celebrate this Christmas joy 4p.m. at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church every Sunday (we meet at Trinity Episcopal Church in Canastota). We also have several bible studies: before church at 3 p.m., Whitman Road above Clockville on the 2nd and 4th Mondays at 2:00 p.m., Camden on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., and 1st and 2nd Tuesdays in Oneida on N. Lake St at 6:30 p.m. Call 315-245-0415 for specific directions and further information. Come visit us and share in the birth of our Savior!