God of the Unexpected

Living Expectantly.
For many in the world Christmas in any year is not worth much in terms of a celebration. Right now we see images from Somalia of the renewed fighting and hear that Ethiopia and Eritrea have become engaged in that senseless conflict again. For the people of Darfur, it's just another day in the struggle to survive the Jangaweed, the deprivation of a refugee camp in the desert and a real sense of helplessness.

For the 500 million or so people who now live in urban slums there is the overcrowding, the filth and rubbish and the constant struggle for daily bread and personal security. For the two-thirds of the world that lives at or below the basic minimum for life itself, the outlook is bleak despite global growth because so much of the new wealth that is being created (in historically record amounts) is simply going into the pockets of the haves in our world.

So if you woke up this morning to excited cries of children at the presents around a green tree in the living room, if you can look forward to Christmas lunch with friends and family, if you can do so in your own home, surrounded by your family, then you have a lot to thank God for because you are a minority in the world in which we all live and work. Implicit in this situation is the understanding that we have something to celebrate - if we can! If you are a Christian then you do have something to celebrate - no matter what your circumstances. When Christ was born he came into a world that was every bit as lousy as the one we live in today - maybe worse. 60 per cent of the total population of the Roman Empire - pretty much a global power at the time; were slaves; a tiny minority were rich and privileged. Life was short and nasty for the great majority. The regime was as oppressive as any we have seen in recent centuries.

On top of that his parents were by no stretch of imagination wealthy or even middle class. They commanded no respect or privileges. Because of Mary's circumstances they were even ostracized by their own tight, religious community. When the regime heard a rumor that a child of some significance was born, they killed every child of that age in the region and the two newly weds and a tiny baby were subjected to a terrible journey across the desert to Egypt where they were forced to live for several years as illegal migrants in a squatter camp.

Yet this almost unseen event marked one of the most dramatic interventions by God in world history and within three short centuries, the Emperor of the most powerful regime in the world would bow down in worship at the Christ Childs feet along with millions of others who had become His followers. In December 0001, was there any reason for optimism that real change was on its way - absolutely not and even so, the world has had to learn how to use the gifts the Christ brought to the world so as to change their own and others lives.

We live in a tough place and if I am asked, quite frankly I cannot see any signs that real and dramatic change is on its way. We face another year in which our economy will shrink, life expectancies will continue to decline and the quality of life that remains will become steadily worse. I do not need to be a prophet to forecast that - it is simply a fact of life in Zimbabwe. I think I can also confidently predict that no one will come to our rescue, we are, as we always have been, alone in this struggle with the evil forces that govern and control our land.

But God is the master of the unexpected. He is also the master of time in all its respects. We have no control over either. Had we been in charge we would have 'fixed' this problem years ago. But that does not necessarily mean we would have done the right thing. God did not intervene in the time of the Romans by arriving with a flaming sword and massed armies - he arrived in an unknown cow shed in an impoverished small town in Palestine. He did not liberate the slaves, or Rome, or for that matter Jerusalem, what he did was to give all mankind, whatever their circumstances, the tools with which they can change their lives and the world they live in, themselves.

All who have found this narrow road; testify that this was the 'Right Way' to do this. His intervention did not rob us of our humanity or our independence and control over our own lives - He simply gave us the power and the knowledge to transform our circumstances and lives as they are into something worth living for.

So it is, that those of us who choose to live in the tough places of the world and have our faith to sustain us, find that far from making sacrifices for what we are doing, we are rewarded with riches beyond our imagination for simply doing what God wants us to do and being where He tells us to stay. I really cannot say we have suffered for our decision to stay and fight it out in Zimbabwe, we have not. We have a close and united family, enough to do all that we want to do and we have security and a shared vision and destiny with the majority who live here. We can truly testify to the ageless truth of what Christ said when He was in Palestine 2000 years ago. 'Seek first the Kingdom of God in your life, and ALL the things you need and want, will be given to you.'

So we enter 2007 and we do so not with trepidation but with expectation that we are again going to experience the provision of 'All things' as we wait for Him to do what is required to put our beloved country back on its feet. C S Lewis, one of the great intellectuals of the 20th Century wrote a book that he titled 'Surprised by Joy'; another English Don who also found Christianity late in life titled his biography 'Good God! It Works'. Yes it does - in all our circumstances and THAT is a good reason to celebrate.

What of the Zanu PF? Well they certainly do not have anything to celebrate. They are in a shambles, cannot agree on a succession plan or even if they need one? The failing economy is like a smelly carcass tied around their neck - they cannot fix it or get rid of it and it spoils everything they do or say. The opposition - even if it is not being recognised yet, is quietly regrouping and unifying within the Broad Alliance that now embraces all civil society organisations as well as 1500 churches and all organised political opposition Parties.

And what of the people, the millions of ordinary Zimbabweans who still live and work here? Well for one thing, we have never been more united; race and ethnicity is really no longer an issue. We also have each other and a future to look forward to - those who have destroyed our economy and shattered our lives do not have either. They also have the unenviable task of eventually facing God - the author of the unexpected.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 25th December 2006