Friday, December 24, 2010

Bahamian Christmas

Hello my friends -

Well as I write this it is Christmas Eve Eve and we are ramping up for a busy weekend.
This past week was full of Christmas-related activities, such as the Chamber of Commerce asking me to play Santa, a Christmas nativity play at AUTEC, a Tree Lighting Ceremony at the roundabout, and putting together plans for Christmas liturgy.

One thing that is unique about the Bahamas is that it is an explicitly Christian country. By that I mean that the Constitution actually says the Bahamas is a Christian Country. Unlike the US, therefor, government officials will speak from the podium at public meetings thanking the Lord God for sending Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Every year we have a tree lighting ceremony in Fresh Creek, complete with the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band. Every year I am amazed at how freely government officials proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior (not only is it true, but in the Bahamas it is politically correct to do so - just the opposite of the US).

This year I hadn't been asked to do any specific role at the tree lighting so I was in jeans and a polo shirt, sitting with Ginni, enjoying the music, the speakers, and the celebratory atmosphere of the event. I was really caught off guard, therefore, when the MC said, "I notice Faddah Trimble is with us today, Faddah, will you come on up and lead us in the final Benediction?" I actually pointed to my chest and said, "Do you mean me?" People in the first three rows all turned and said, "Yes Faddah, he be calling you up" So up I went and did a spontaneous prayer and blessing - only in the Bahamas.

At AUTEC Navy Base was a bit more prepared. Every year they have a 'Living Nativity', where the children dress as shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, with a newborn drafted to play Jesus (this year it was a baby girl cast as Jesus). I had been asked to read the nativity from Luke and, as each event was read, Mary and Joseph would take up their positions in the stable that the seabees had built, then the shepards would walk on stage, then the wise men - all the while I am reading the story of Jesus' birth. This isn't the best of pics but here I am reading the narrative as the procession is taking place.
It really was a great event, followed by an evening of local Bahamian food from folks that had been invited onto the Base to staff booths, along with local craftsmen and local charities the Base supports. It really was a good time - there is nothing quite as pretty as coconut palms trimmed with Christmas lights.

On another bright note, I had a call the other day from the Vicar of the Archdiocese telling me that we WILL have a priest for Christmas. A priest from the Seminary in Miami (where the Archdiocese of Nassau is sending its seminarians) will be joining us. As I said in my last post, with Christmas and New Years both being on Saturday we have back to back liturgies with Christmas followed by the Sunday services the very next day so this will be a huge help.
We met Fr. Rios yesterday and we have decided he will preach on Christmas and I will do the Sunday homilies for the Feast of the Holy Family. We'll repeat that the following weekend with him preaching for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God on New Years, and I will take the Epiphany on Sunday. With him staying for the whole week we will, for the first time in years, be able to have daily Mass as well, not to mention the availability of Confession!
Some very kind people have given us a food basket for Christmas. While we appreciate their generosity we know so many people in need that much of the basket has found its way into their homes. We have come to know where the families are that will be having peanut butter for Christmas dinner and donations like this help us help them and they are always very, very thankful.
One story along these lines will give you an idea of what I mean. I have told you in prior blogs that in the Northern part of the island we have encounted a growing Haitian community who work the fields in the farms up north. A few weeks back we were driving one of them home after having church in the primary school (since we have no church up North). I asked him what crop was he working on and, in broken english, he said, "No work today - two weeks" I repeated my question and again, "No work - two weeks". Well it turns out that he had no work right now and the next time he was promised work was in two weeks. When I finally understood that I asked what he was doing for food while he was out of work and his answer was, "No work - two weeks". The bottom line was, there was no work for two weeks, there would be no pay for two weeks, and there would be no food for two weeks. He, and all the Haitians there, would be 'getting by', but there was no plan as to how that would happen. It was the way things were for him, pretty much the normal way of life - when you had work, you ate, if not, you didn't.
Well I didn't know that this was such a desparate situation and I only had $20, but I gave it to him for food and you would have thought I had given him a thousand. "Thank You, Thank You very much - God bless you" It was an endless stream of thanks and praise.
The next week when I picked him up he had a plastic bag full of green tomatoes he gave us. He had no money, but what he did have was the produce that the farmer thought unworthy of bringing to market - and he gave us what he had in thanks. To be truthful, what he gave us was not that appetizing to look at but - after about a week they turned bright red and, once ripe, were delicious! We ended up giving many of them to those Bahamian families with so little I mentioned earlier. Our bounty, met his need - from his bounty we met the need of others. God is good.
Well I will sign off for now - Merry Chistmas to all of you. As Jesus was born in Bethlehem we pray that he may be born anew in you - He is Emmanuel - God with us. AMEN? AMEN.

1 comment:

Doug Grant said...

AMEN! Merry Xmas from L'il Rhody!