Once upon a time a certain East African country had may
mountains and valleys, rivers and plains. All the people lived in one big
valley. The large extended families included grandparents, aunts, uncles,
cousins and many children. These East African people were ordinary human beings
with both good and bad qualities. They followed all the seasons of human life:
A time for giving birth … a time for dying.
A time for planting … a time for uprooting.
A time for knocking down … a time for building.
A time for tears … a time for laughter.
A time for mourning … a time for dancing.
A time for loving … a time for hating.
A time for war … a time for peace.
A man named John Shayo lived in this large valley. He was a
faithful Christian who prayed every Sunday and regularly participated in his
Amani Small Christian Community. He helped the poor and needy especially the
lepers who lived on one slope. John tried to fulfill all his Christian
responsibilities. From time to time he failed, but in general he was a very good
In this large valley there was jealousy, fighting,
drunkenness and all kinds of discord. Thieves and tricksters walked about openly
and regularly stole cows, goats and sheep. Families and villages lacked peace
and harmony. Witchcraft and superstition were part of daily life. After
patiently enduring this bad situation for a long time John Shayo decided to move
somewhere else. He said, "Certainly God isn’t present here. He is the "All
Peaceful One" who doesn’t like fighting and discord. He wants peace and
harmonious relationships in his human family."
John Shayo saw a very high mountain far in the distance.
It rose majestically in the clear tropical air. John said, "Certainly God our
"Great Ancestor" lives in peace and quiet on the top of that East African
mountain. I will go there to find God who "Dwells on High With the Spirits of
the Great." So John set off on his long safari. At the end of the first day he
reached the foot of this high mountain. The burning equatorial sun had drained
his energy. He rested. Very early the next morning he started out again. After
three hours of difficult climbing he was tired and sat by the side of the rough
After a few minutes John was startled to see a bearded man
about 30-years-old making his way down the mountain. They greeted each other. "Jambo
(‘Hello’). What is the news?" John told the traveler that he was climbing to the
top of the mountain to find God our "Creator and Source." The traveler said that
his name was Emmanuel and that he was climbing down the mountain to live with
the people in the large valley. After talking together for a few minutes they
said good-bye to each other in the traditional African farewell: "Good-bye until
we meet again." As John continued his safari up the steep mountain he said to
himself: "That man is a fine person. He is very intelligent and speaks well. I
wonder why he wants to go down to my former valley?"
Soon John Shayo was engrossed in his arduous climb. The
air grew thinner. He climbed more slowly. By late afternoon he reached the top
of the mountain and said to himself: "There is peace and quiet here. Now I will
surely find God." He looked everywhere. No one was around. John was very
disappointed and asked out loud, "Where is God?"
Suddenly a gaunt old man appeared and greeted John.
"Welcome. Relax after your long, hard safari." Shayo began to describe the
arduous trip and his desire to meet God the "All Peaceful One." The old man
said, "I’m sorry, but God isn’t here on the top of this high mountain. I live
alone here. Surely you met God on the mountain path. He was going down to the
big valley to live with the people there and to help them with their problems
and difficulties." John was astonished and exclaimed out loud, "You mean the
traveler I met on the path was God. I didn’t recognize him. I thought that I
would find him here on the top of the mountain."
The old man said, "I’m sorry. You see God doesn’t want to
live here all by himself. He wants to join with the human beings he created.
That’s the meaning of his name "Emmanuel. God is with us." John Shayo exclaimed:
"But in the valley there are arguments and fighting. Many of the people are
thieves, tricksters, troublemakers and drunkards. Why does God want to live with
Quietly the old man answered, "God knows the lives of his
people and their problems and weaknesses. There is a myth about an East African
hunter who disobeyed God’s command and shot an arrow into the clouds. The sky
bled and God withdrew into the high heavens to get away from human beings. But
God the "Great Elder" loved his human family and wanted to show his tender care.
So God our "Great Chief" sent his Son to pitch his tent among us, to live with
us, to share our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures, our strengths and
weaknesses in order to save us. We celebrate this mystery of salvation on the
feast of Christmas — the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ our "Eldest Brother."
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
John Shayo was deeply moved by these words and listened
intently as the old man continued. "Jesus Christ — Emmanuel" was born and lived
among us human beings as an ordinary person. He surrounded himself with simple,
needy people just like the farmers and herders in the villages of your valley.
He helped the people with their daily problems. This is the meaning and mystery
of Christmas — we learn to live like Jesus, Emmanuel our God and a person for
"John, from time to time you can come to this mountain top
to rest and pray, but know, my friend, that the heart of Christmas is to live
with the people in the valley and share their daily problems and difficulties."
John suddenly felt that he had learned much wisdom on this East African
mountaintop. Deeply touched he said, "I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided to go
back to the large valley and live with the people as Jesus Christ Himself does."
The wise old man put his hands on John’s head and gave him a blessing.
John Shayo turned slowly. Seeing the large valley
stretched out below him, John began to walk down the mountain."