Preparation for Christmas in the Congo begins when some groupis designated to prepare the annual Christmas pageant. Sometimes it will be a school group; sometimes it will be the elders or deacons of the church. Christmas Day itself begins with groups of carolers walking to and fro through the village, along the roadway, by the houses of the missionaries, singing the lovely carols known the world around. Often one is awakened by some caroling group that passes under his window just before dawn when the group of carolers is beginning to converge at the house of worship. The entire Christian group is found at dawn at the church for a service of prayer where once again everyone will join in the singing of the carols and where the day’s big service will be properly announced. Then everyone goes home to make final preparation as to his best clothes and also to be sure to prepare his offering for the Christmas service. Now the most important part of their Christmas worship service is the love offering, which is their gift in honor of Jesus. At about eight or nine o’clock not only will every Christian who is not ill find his way to the house of worship but many non-Christians who have been caught up in the joyous spirit of the day will also come and join in the celebration of the birthday. Of course, there will be the usual Scripture and the singing of all the carols and many, many special musical numbers by groups who have done their best to prepare some bit of music for this service, and then the part of the service that is probably the most important of all is the march-around offering. Everyone in the service will be expected to go forward and lay his gift upon the raised platform near the Communion table-his gift to Jesus on this, His birthday. Not a person will come to the service without something in his hand to be offered as his gift on this day. Those who do not have money will bring some article they have made, or something from their garden, or some fruit from their trees; and in many cases where there is no other gift available, some old lame person has often hobbled forward with a cup and saucer or a knife, fork, and spoon that he took off his table rather than come to this service without his gift.
Always, of course, there is a Christian sermon, following much the same theme as we would follow in such a message here. This service may last as long as two hours and has in some cases lasted three hours, but never too long for the African Christian. For them, it is one of the most joyous days of the year, and by their worship they indicate it is Jesus Christ who has brought this unusual joy into their lives.
In recent years, following the Christmas service many ofthe people have had Christmas dinners, preparing tables out in front of their home and inviting many of their intimate friends to share then around the table in a continuation of the joyful spirit which is found in every heart throughout this day. And so as the missionaries gather for their Christmas dinner together, likewise the African Christian, out in front of home after home, will gather with his friends and continue the rest of the day in a mood of singing, gratitude, and joyfulness. And so as the sun sets on Christmas in the Congo, the entire population of village after village will have felt the impact of the spirit of joy, hope, and brotherhood that is felt the world around because Jesus was born a long time ago and is continually reborn in the lives of people the world around today.