God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
The expression, “rest ye merry,” was a common phrase used as a greeting or farewell in Old English when this carol was first sang in the 16th century. In this popular Christmas carol, it can simply be rephrased to mean “God keep you at peace,” or “God make you joyful.” As we reflect on the state of our world today, we can easily become overwhelmed by all the needs, all the hurt, and all the evil. It is hard to be at peace or have joy when faced with all the suffering. In all the brokenness that surrounds us, the Christmas season provides an opportunity to focus on the light.
For the families living in extreme poverty in Mathare, the Christmas season often highlights the brokenness of families and the lack of resources. Even in these circumstances though, many families often come together to celebrate, sharing the little that they have. In this season, there is a sense of wrong being put right. A sense of hope. A light in all the darkness. The imagery is everywhere, a single star in the night leading the wise men to Bethlehem, angels in the sky surrounded by halos of light sharing the wonderful news with humble shepherds. In our own homes and neighbourhoods, we have Christmas lights on our trees and mantles, not to mention all the beautiful Christmas light displays outside. The various images of light all point to one person, the baby in the manger. The Christ child who is the source of light, the Saviour, our source of hope. As John writes in John 1:4-5 (NIV), “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
For Brenda, Christ’s light is real. Brenda was abandoned by her teen birth mother right after she was born. Brenda first lived with her aging grandmother in their rural home and now lives with her aunt, Mama Gloria, in Mathare. When Mama Gloria took over her care in Nairobi, she brought her to Mawewa School where her own daughter was a student, to take part in the competitive interview process for the limited open spots available every year. For 5 years Mama Gloria brought Brenda again and again for an interview, but unfortunately every time when the school needed just one child to fill a place that had fallen vacant, Brenda would place second by just one or two points. Mama Gloria persisted year after year, believing that God had a special plan for her niece, and that plan involved Brenda becoming a part of the Mawewa family. She believed that Brenda needed the Christ centered transformative educational opportunity found at Mawewa School. Finally in Grade 5, Brenda secured a spot at Mawewa School. Due to the instability of her home life and the many transitions in her education, Brenda initially struggled, but with continued care from our teachers and support from her aunt, she soon settled in. She began to thrive, becoming one of the top 3 students in her class. Though Brenda was one of our top students, she nearly missed out on taking the national KCPE high school entrance exams last month, as she lacked a birth certificate necessary to register. Through the tireless effort of our principal, Mr. Maingi, Brenda’s aunt was able to get the necessary alternative documentation for Brenda to take the exam. Upon receiving the results of the exam, Brenda was second in her class, and scored in the top 7% in the whole country.
Brenda’s start in life was rocky, she still does not have a relationship with either of her parents, and still lives in extreme poverty in Mathare. But as Brenda starts at our high school in 2018, Christ’s light shines in her life and she has hope. This hope is not found in great exam results, or even a secure academic future. For Brenda, and all the children and families that eduKenya serves, and for all of us, our hope is in Christ. Despite the difficulty in any of our circumstances, our eternal future is secure, and the restorative work of Christ transforms us, slowly but surely healing our broken hearts and securing us in His love.
So to Brenda and all the children of Mathare living in extreme poverty, to all the friends and supporters of eduKenya, to those whose souls are weary in our broken world, we bid you “God rest you merry!” May God keep you at peace and give you joy. Not because our world is perfect, but because as the angel said “… 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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:10-14 – KJV)