During the rainy season in the plateau region of Togo, West Africa, the mountains come alive with verdant, lush, fertile foliage.
Crops bloom and produce abundant fruit that offers a promise of prosperity at harvest time. Toward the end of November, the harmattan season sweeps in with winds carrying arid dust from the Sahara and leaving the land dead, dry, and barren. As years pass, the coolness of the harmattan evenings arouses a nostalgic reminiscence, bringing Christmas to mind.
It is that time of year again. The land looks lifeless, yet it is time to celebrate the giver of life itself.
Historically, the Togolese have not made much of the Christmas holiday. No trees are decorated. No lights are hung. No presents are given. Instead, the Togolese celebrate New Year’s Day. To the Togolese, the new year offers a new life of opportunity as they say goodbye to the old year and celebrate the new hope of the year to come.
As we teach new Togolese Christians the value of celebrating Jesus’ birth, we remind them of the eternal living hope he brings. Rather than celebrating an ambiguous hope for a thriving new year of life, we hold a sure and living hope of eternal life through salvation from sin.
Earlier this year, our team in Togo studied, memorized, and meditated on Ephesians 2:1-10, which perfectly encapsulates the spiritual paradox of believers. Our spiritual state of sin leaves us as dry and desolate as the land during harmattan: “And you were dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:1). Our spiritual state in Jesus leaves us as flourishing and fruitful as the rainy season: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Our loving Lord did not leave us dead in our sin. He offers life through Jesus—not merely a new year of life to celebrate on New Year’s Day, but a new life that we will celebrate with him for eternity. He offers this abundant gift of life to all who trust Jesus as their eternal, living hope. The life he offers is indeed worth celebrating.
So during the holidays this year in our homes, let us not be caught in the abstract celebration of an ambiguous hope that lasts only for a few weeks. Instead, like the new Togolese Christians, let’s celebrate our new life and the eternal hope we have in Christ through his birth, death, and resurrection. Through Christ we find our greatest reason to celebrate—the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of our souls.
PRAYER REQUESTS FOR TOGO:
- Pray for Togolese churches to grow, flourish, and have a fervent desire to reach across tribal barriers to share the gospel with their lost Muslim neighbors. Pray for the missionaries to have wisdom in building and strengthening the churches.
- Pray for the varied ministries in Togo: the Bible institute, hospitals, resource center, Studio Verite, aviation ministries, the school for the blind, and the Christian schools.
Article by Andy and Jackie Kirby – Originally posted on abwe.org