ELCA missionary Kirsten Fryer serves St. Andrew’s International Congregation and the St. Andrew’s Refugee Services in Cairo. In her blog, Cairos, Kirsten describes Christmas Day worship in Cairo where Sudanese refugees from various tribes who are fighting in South Sudan came together to worship, sing and commune around the table of the Lord.
From Kirsten’s blog:
If you’ve been following the news from South Sudan, you’ll understand why I will treasure Christmas Day 2013 for a very long time. Even while Nuer and Dinka in South Sudan fight and kill one another, the two communities in Cairo, as well as the Sudanese Lutheran congregation that worships at St. Andrew’s, and representatives from the Shilluk congregation that worships elsewhere in the city, came together for worship on Christmas Day. In Arabic and English, Nuer, Dinka, and Shilluk, we prayed and sang and came together at the Lord’s Table. For those 3½ hours, differences were set aside and prayers were lifted up, together, in thanksgiving and celebration. Prayers were lifted up for peace, in South Sudan and Syria and throughout the world.
There was lots of music. The song leader would begin to sing, and soon voices were raised throughout the sanctuary, not just by one group, but by the whole congregation. Even at the point when the different congregations sang a special song, everyone joined in. Women danced in the aisles and voices were raised throughout the old, dusty sanctuary, decorated in its Christmas finest. We were welcomed at the Lord’s Table and came forward with outstretched hands, each fed with the bread of life, regardless of where we came from or what marks might otherwise distinguish us.
The Spirit moved among us and did not distinguish us by tribe or language but called us together as brothers and sisters in Christ and made us witnesses of the good news of great joy for all the people. The good news of great joy that brought us together. The good news of great joy that takes strangers and enemies and calls them brothers and sisters.
On Christmas Day, I looked out over this congregation that the world news would lead us to believe shouldn’t be together. Couldn’t be together. And yet we were. In peace and joy and celebration. I was struck by the promise of incarnation. By the promise that we celebrate on Christmas — that God comes to us. That God comes, not as the mighty and powerful warrior, but as the humble and vulnerable child. And then continues to breathe life and hope and promise into the lives of people, even with all of the baggage that we bring. With all of the joys and sorrows that we bear. With all of the struggles we face. That God continues to come to us, God’s beloved people, is worth remembering and celebrating, not just on Christmas but always. It is indeed good news of great joy for all the people. And light that shines in the darkness.