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Opinions of Friday, 30 December 2016

Columnist: Enninful, Kingsley

Christmas time in Elmina

(Kofi Koda’s Text)

One can often hear the elders in Elmina on dim moonlit nights under the great baobab tree whisper that ‘Africa will never let you die’. Truth is, as we have all come to know, that time will. Of course, by death, they do not mean merely the physical. For, in this culture, birth and death are merely a doorway, a passage in time if you will. In 1953, a baby was born to the village of Elmina on Christmas day. He was named Kofi Koda because he was born on a Friday and to greatness. At least that is what the elders whispered.

At age 12, young Kofi Koda had heard what the elders whispered. Death for his young mind was merely an abstract concept. Time, on the other hand, was something he could grasp. After all, the elders also whispered that ‘no one teaches a child to know God and time’. Every child in the village of Elmina knew, if they were good and worked hard at school, they would be rewarded at Christmas. O Christmas! The one time children would get a new dress, eat sweets, dance to rhythmic music from the old sacred drums and taste the goodness of Coca Cola. This year, it was as if all the children in Elmina willed time to race on till, exhausted, it paused to catch its breath in December. No child knew what Christmas really meant. Kofi Koda didn’t know either. Truth is, he didn’t care. A friend at school once informed him it was an invented tradition. The white man came a century ago in ships to take over the lands and brought Christmas along. The goal was simple: get adults to take a break from work, go to church and spend money they didn’t have on their children. This made him chuckle and smile at the same time. It didn’t matter what it meant, so long as his parents remembered that it was his birthday and also Christmas. That he would get anything he wanted at the big market fest held in the village. Like all the other children, Kofi Koda willed time to race on.

Time obeyed and soon, Kofi Koda’s Christmas morning came. It was a lovely Sunday morning in December. The graceful path that winds along the stately ruins of the Elmina castle was in its glory. The stone-filled path by the sea was luxuriating in bright sunshine, glowing colors and soft shadows. He looked on as his mum and dad dragged him along one of the most charming and romantic villages that Ghana can present. Here, every field has had its battle and the sea its song. Kofi felt something was different. His parents had taken a different footpath. This was not the route to the market place. He panicked. Was it a trip to visit a relative first before the market place? As it turned out, they were heading to a church. A place he had never been before.

He sat uncomfortably between his parents, all the while wondering why folks will gather in an old building instead of being at the market fest. Soon, a middle-aged man he could barely see began to read from a book. His voice clear and piercing. Inexplicably, he felt this was his message. This was his text.
In the fullness of time,

God sent forth his Son…

The man went on to talk about the centre of Christmas. Its true meaning. Kofi wasn’t interested. Again, he willed time to race on. The text, however, refused to be shaken off. By the time the church service was over it was too late to go to the market. Upset with his parents, he ran home screaming, “My Christmas is ruined; my Christmas is ruined!” Yet, as he screamed, he quite involuntarily repeated the text to himself a hundred times. ‘In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son.’ Though his heart was filled with anger and disappointment, his young mind was intrigued by the text. It sounded in his ears like a claim, a challenge, an insistent and imperative demand.
Years later, Kofi Koda, now an elder, sat under the great baobab tree, as was custom. He no longer celebrated Christmas and told any child who would listen in the village why there was no need to. He was nicknamed ‘bronya bonsam ’, which literally meant the devil of Christmas, by the children. He argued often as to why this was an invented tradition. In his heart, he blamed his parents for ruining his experience of the invention. With time, even the old elders under the great baobab tree whispered his nickname to each other and made jokes at his expense. Thankfully, for himself and for the village, he had by this time married a wife and had a son to whom the truth of the text was no stranger . At first, he had tried to forbid Christmas celebrations in his house, but his wife won that battle. Each year, he sat watching his wife and son celebrate. He would eat his meal without much zeal, callously and mechanically, being swallowed up by unbelief and in rebellion against God. He blamed God for this monstrosity. Yet still, each year, the text wearied him. ‘In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son.’

It was Christmas Eve 1998, or a day to Kofi Koda’s birthday, as he would rather refer to it. He sat in silence with his wife and son at dinner.

“Can we visit the market tomorrow, dad?” his son asked, looking away immediately, afraid to look into his eyes because memories of his fiery eyes and anger still haunted him from previous years when he had asked.

“Christmas is an invented…” Kofi Koda proceeded to answer, as he always did.
“Enough of this, my dear,” his wife said gently, “all these years and you still don’t truly get what Christmas means.”

“I do.” He said, slamming his fist on the dinner table. “I really do”, he screamed and walked away from the table angrily. Dishes came crashing to the floor as his wife looked on in shock and surprise. He walked to the window and stared out as it began to rain. The heavens wept. Kofi Koda wept. He didn’t want his family to ever see him like this.
“I was good,” he said, holding back the tears as best as he could. His mind playing back his childhood experience of 1965. His wife and son drew closer and together held his hand.

“Arrogance and fear still keeps you from learning the greatest lesson of all,” his wife whispered.

“Which is?” he asked.

“Christmas is not about you.”

The text came back to him. Kofi Koda saw that day in Elmina that he must recognize the true meaning of Christmas. He must first of all acknowledge who the celebration is for. The Divine Person. Once more, the text came to him like a claim. And this time, he yielded. He made his vow in writing. ‘I offer myself up, soul and body, unto God. I accept the gift of His Son, Jesus. I will live to Him; I will die to Him. I take heaven and earth to witness that all I am and all I have are His.'
Thus, on December 24, 1998, Kofi Koda makes his covenant. “That night”, he said, “I got my head out of time into eternity!”
Now what was it, I wonder, that Kofi Koda saw in this text as he sat in the church with his parents in 1965, with his wife and son at the dinner table in 1998? What, to him, was the significance of that great text that, as the man in the church had said, underlined the true meaning of Christmas? They convinced him that the center must always be greater than the circumference . The center must always be greater than the circumference, for, without the center, there can be no circumference. And there, in the very first word of the text, stands the august center around which all the mandates revolve, 'God sent forth his Son, in the fullness of time.' ‘Time is too slow for those who wait,’ he remembered now what the man at the church had said, ‘too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice but for those who love, time is eternity. The man who will find this truth finds God.’ In hearing the text that Sunday morning, Kofi Koda, then a boy of twelve, had come face to face with God and he couldn’t outrun the circumference until his heart was in harmony with the center.

Christ is the center of Christmas. ‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’ Christ dares the universe. He defies infinity. He summons, as we see, every young heart, for every heart is important. Kofi Koda’s heart was changed. For the first time on a Christmas morning he woke with a smile. Truth and morning had become light with time.

About the Author
Kingsley Enninful is an engineer by training and a Sunday school teacher in Ministry. Currently, he is pursuing a doctorate in Climate Change impact on Infrastructure at the University of Stuttgart. He is a poet and writer of short stories. His writing style is WORD dependent. Peddling in words inspired by God's WORD the Bible. Kingsley strives to write excellently, to influence society and to make a difference through Christ.