“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, . . . And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.” Isaiah 9:6
For our daughter’s last vacation from boarding school in Africa, my husband, Duane, and I took her on a trip through Zambia and Zimbabwe to Johannesburg, South Africa. It was our first trip to a large city in two years. We had hoped to be home for Christmas Day. However, car trouble delayed our return until the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
Driving into the dense African night, we felt tense about reaching the Zimbabwe border post before it closed at 8:30. We pulled up at the border with only minutes to spare.
Our intent had been to spend the night in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, but after an hour of traveling we realized we wouldn’t make it until one a.m. Duane was already nodding off at the wheel. Suddenly the car swerved toward the verge.
“What are you doing?” I asked, too loudly.
Duane steered our Speed-the-Light vehicle to the roadside and stopped. “We’re spending the night in the car,” he said with a sigh, turning the lights off, tipping back his seat and settling in for sleep.
There was not a light anywhere, not even firelight from someone’s home. An African cricket chirps very loudly, and there were many of them. An owl hooted on his night’s rounds. Frogs croaked in a nearby watering hole. A truck roared by, rocking our car in its wind-rush.
Of all the dumb things we’ve ever done – and we’ve done some – this is the dumbest. I made sure all the doors were locked, cracked the window for some air, tipped back my seat, swatted at a mosquito, and settled down to hopefully sleep a little. What a miserable way to spend Christmas Eve. And it will be a hard drive all Christmas Day to reach home. Grumpy? You bet! However, we did sleep.
At dawn, I woke to the sound of bells. There can’t be Christian church bells way out here in the bush. Am I dreaming? I rubbed my eyes and sat up.
Thorn trees stood in silhouette against and orange and apricot sunrise. Birds began their morning songs, and a bee buzzed by on his first honey trip. I opened the car door. Deep breaths of brisk morning air were like draughts of fresh, cool water. My family stirred, murmuring sleepy good- mornings.
Again, the bells. Christmas bells? No, cowbells, with a herdsman peering through the brush wondering, no doubt, what these foolish white folks were doing.
“Merry Christmas!” we greeted one another with tones of special joy.The herdsman, the bells, the thorns, the birdsong, and the sunrise all reminded me that a Savior was born! We drove away singing Christmas carols into the most memorable, dewy Christmas morning of our lives.