By Aaron Aroriza:
I didn't see the blue moon on Christmas Eve but I'm sure it must have been there, somewhere. So I went to our village church on Christmas day – that's how often I go to our traditional Anglican churches these days.
The church is filled beyond capacity as is the norm on such special days and you can tell almost everyone is wearing new clothes for the occasion, save for yours truly and a few other humble servants of God, the poor in spirit; they are blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
I notice one particular old lady who is seated in the pew just in front of ours. For some reason I don't know yet, most front pews are still empty even when many people are attending the service outside church due to lack of space. Her clothes have definitely seen at least five Christ-masses and her hands show a lot of wear and tear resulting from the hard work she endures all year round.
Her sweet smile as she warmly greets me, a stranger, and wishes me a merry Christmas, thanking me for having made it through the year, exposes her stained teeth but most importantly her warm heart! I summarily conclude she is meek. She should inherit the earth.
That's my opinion, that's what the bible says too. But for now she doesn't even have the right to a front pew in this earthly church – she just doesn't seem to know it yet and neither do I. So we sing along the kinyankole (my mother tongue) version of “joy to the world, the king is born” as some late comers are ushered into the church. Oh, one of them actually looks like a king, almost walks like a king and when he later opens his mouth to speak I tune my ears to pick out his voice – yes his voice too exudes the authority of a king. I almost conclude he is a king or a man who is wise, moments before his words expose him to be otherwise, breaking my Christmas joy filled heart!
He is ordering the meek lady to vacate his pew so his kids can sit. The meek lady humbly replies that this is a church and she doesn't have anywhere else to sit. The kingly man is enraged, stands up and wiggles his way to the other end of the pew where the meek lady is sitting. In a raised voice I can clearly hear and can perhaps be heard four pews from there, he assures her that he bought that front pew with his own money and therefore the poor have no right to it.
I'm not so sure I'm seated on a pew that belongs to me and I'm scared I might also be chased from my comfortable place. I suddenly feel needy (pew wise) amidst plenty. So I turn to my dad who is seated in the one behind me and ask him if he bought this pew with his 'own money'. He looks embarrassed but assures me we are seated on our own pews. Phew… at least I'm safe in this church; today, no one is going to tell me I belong to the back benches!
I tap the meek lady on the shoulder intending to tell her that she can come over to our pew. She half turns and looks at me from the corner of her eye. I'm glad I can't look into her other eye because I'm not sure I would stand the double hatred. The vileness in her exposed one eye is already too much for me. I think she has already surmised that since I'm wearing the same suit color as the kingly man, we must be from the same school of manners and she has thus already judged me harshly. I think I too, I'm beginning to get the unfair judgment bug. Hearts that were so warm a few minutes ago have suddenly frozen. Now her stained teeth and wrinkled fingers remind me of stories of village witches and night dancers, suddenly her worn out garbs look like wizard wear to me and the joy that filled my heart and hers connecting us in the Christmas spirit has been stolen by the kingly man's arrogance.
Meanwhile, I haven't been paying attention to the village reverend's sermon but when he talks about Egypt and the pyramids I suddenly pay attention. He goes ahead to tell us how the Israelites built the great pyramids and how, as slaves, they made so many burnt clay bricks required for the construction (He explains the process of making burnt clay bricks and how every Israelite made so many). He tells this story with such conviction you would almost believe it. Matter of fact most people in the congregation are nodding their heads in approval including the kingly man. I'm taken aback because I know for a fact that burnt clay bricks were never used for pyramid construction. I don't know which other stories dear priest narrates to us as facts when they are actually not but its Christmas and provided the flock is happy with the sermon so am I.
I notice the meek lady walking to the behind benches at last – where, in the kingly man's opinion, she belongs.
Her heart is laden with hatred on Christmas; she even hates me for no reason. Maybe I judged her too fast – I don't think she's meek after all. No, she shouldn't inherit this earth. The kingly man?! He definitely isn't wise but he sure is rich. It will be harder for a rich man to go to heaven than it would be for a Carmel to pass through the eye of a needle – that's for sure. From my observation this Christmas, the poor in spirit and material belongings will not find it any easier either! And for having judged the 'meek lady', the 'kingly man' and the village priest this Christmas, I too I'm not a good candidate.
The genuinely meek should inherit this troubled earth before it's too late!
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