number 6, december 10, 1998

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Being aware of Advent may not always be easy for people at the 8th assembly. Most are far from home and caught up in the busy, changing life of an international meeting.

In this poem, one assembly participant, who is in the southern hemisphere for the first time at Advent, found some new images as he was walking one night this week.

An Advent Night in Africa

By Gary Payton

"Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King."
The familiar carol fills the night air with traditional sounds of Christmas.
A well-trained English choir recorded, no doubt, in a lofty Gothic cathedral
now plays on a boom-box on a quiet African night.
The images that well up from the heart at the sound of the first carol of the season
don't fit the Advent night around me.

African tree frogs sound on my evening walk home,
the red earth of Zimbabwe clings to my shoes,
after the rains,
and crickets chirp outside my window as I pause at the end of the day.

"Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled."
Just minutes before, a sky deep and giant
filled with towering thunderheads boiling
and blowing and flashing with light.
Swirling gray against the blue black domes,
thunder rolling from horizon to horizon!
And then, the cooling rains that bring steam from the surface of the land.

Now the rains have passed and in their place
is a sweetness that fills the air.
Torch red flowers? Renewed green grass?
Or maybe the breath of Mother Earth
sighing after the waters of rebirth.

"With the angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem."
It is, of course, God's same earth.
But on this night I wait from the South
and not the North.
I wait for the Prince of Peace.
No wintry winds, no bundled coats, no burning fire.
This night I wait with the tree frogs
and the crickets and the rising steam.

He comes for all you know.
"Neither Jew nor Greek," nor old or young, or black or white or brown
or woman or man or gay or straight.
He simply comes for all.

"And the angel said unto them,
Fear not, for behold, I bring you
good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people
For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

The sheep and the donkey knew,
and so did the tree frog and the cricket.

Gary Payton is coordinator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Peacemaking Program. At the 8th assembly, he is coordinating his church’s Padare events and leading a seminar on "just peacemaking".

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Read other articles in this issue:

Capoeira, their way to move around campus
Children say it's time for action &
World's most dynamic schoolboy?
Children issue some challenges
CNN world news coverage ‘mile wide, half-inch thick’
Young speak of dignity
God of many names
Street kids have their own plot
An advent night in Africa

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor