One day, three very different celebrations!
As I reflected on the day I was struck by different aspects of what had and had not been apparent during the different celebrations. Three words came to mind; segregation, preparation and jubilation.
Segregation, the dividing of those attending the celebration occurred at two of the three events. The men and women undertook celebrating at the marriage and the funeral as a group of men apart from the group of women. Whether this is entirely due to their Islamic beliefs or whether there is also a cultural element, I cannot say as I have not attended other non-Islamic events to be able to make a comparison. The church service was the only event where there was no segregation. (though I have certainly attended services where the women sit on one side and the men on the other side of the church) I felt this was significant as an outward sign that there is no segregation in Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile, there is no male or female. Christ brings unity rather than division.
Each of the events that we attended did not occur without some preparation. There were preparations to ready the different spaces that were used so that they were fit for the occasion. There was the preparation of individuals so that they were ready for the occasion. The bride and groom had to be properly dressed, the deceased had to be prepared for burial, those attending church had to be prepared to hear from God and the pastor to preach. There was an opportunity at the marriage celebration when we were given the opportunity to speak to the couple any words we wished. Unfortunately, this was an opportunity we missed as we were not prepared and with limited Swahili one that we were not able to make the most of; a lesson to be learned. I was reminded of the verse (1Peter 3:15) that says we must, at all times, be prepared to give account for the hope we have in Christ. While this situation was a little different, we missed the opportunity to speak of Christ to a crowd of mostly Muslims.
Finally, we come to jubilation which is having joy in something. Maybe you feel that to use the word celebration for all three of these events is somewhat inaccurate. Maybe particularly so for funerals and some marriage ceremonies. My experience however has led me to believe that all these events when engaged in as Christians are celebrations of our life in Christ and as such are expressions of faith. One of the outward signs of this faith is seen in the joy present in the occasion. My experience that day was that there was joy to be seen in the worship of our heavenly Father, but that joy or jubilation was missing from the other two events we attended. At the marriage celebration there were expressions of happiness as people ate, danced and celebrated but I felt there was no true joy evident. The funeral was also only an expression of grief and loss with no apparent underlying joy in the assurance of the deceased persons destination. This lack of joy I put down to the lack of Christ in the lives of people. Christ came to give us life in full measure, a life in technicolour rather than a monochrome life. What a treasure we have in Him!