When we moved from Canada to Egypt in 1980 we rented a very old dilapidated apartment which needed much work and I was obliged to redo all the plumbing and electricity myself. So when, a few months later, my daughter Leila was asked to describe her Dad’s work she unhesitatingly said: “he fixes our house”!
The experience taught me how to work with my own hands and repair most things around the house.
In 1990 we moved to the apartment in which we now live and fortunately it was in much better shape so the work I had to do was minimal, though I did change all the plumbing fixtures myself. For the past two years we have had very little water pressure in our bathroom sink and in spite of getting two plumbers to fix this, the water pressure was still very weak.
So yesterday, in frustration, I decided to repair it myself. I had to remove the sink, take out the fixtures and try to find out what was wrong. My fear was that after 22 years the fixtures would have rusted so much that I would not be able to remove them.
As I was working on the sink I wondered if after so long I still would be able to do the work I used to do more than twenty years ago. So you can imagine my sense of accomplishment when, after two hours of hard work, the sink was back in its place and the water pressure was back to normal!
I felt very proud of myself and wondered why it meant so much to me to achieve what some would think was a trivial task?
It made me remember the words in Genesis “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Gen 2:15)
God wanted Adam to work, that was one of the reasons for creating him. So when one works with one’s hands one often feels that this is part of our reason for existence. There is a godly satisfaction in working with one’s hands, at least for some of us!
Today is a NATIONAL holiday in Egypt in celebration of Eastern Christmas which is celebrated by the majority of Egyptian Christians along with many other Orthodox communities around the world. (To my knowledge no Western country has a national holiday on the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday!).
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas with a Christmas Eve service. Traditionally, Muslim government and civic leaders attend the first part of that service in every church in the country as a way of giving their greetings to their Christian brethren.
For the past 30 years, Rebecca and I have attended the Christmas Eve services at the Garbage Village Church. Last night’s service, however, was quite different than any of the previous ones due to the unusually large number of Muslims of all walks of life who attended the first part of the 3 hour service! We could not believe it as they kept coming in large numbers all evening. This was apparently so in other Churches across the country as well.
The difference this year was not just in the number of visitors, but was that the majority of the Muslim guests were not there in an official capacity, but rather came spontaneously to express their solidarity with Christians on this occasion.
This is clear evidence that there are many Muslims in Egypt who want peaceful coexistence with Christians and wanted to express this fact practically by coming to Church on Christmas Eve.
It’s not easy to attend a service in a Church of a different denomination as one is not sure how to behave oneself. In Orthodox services in particular, visitors always find it difficult to know when one should stand and when sit. So for Muslims to make the effort and have the courage to come to church on Christmas Eve (in spite of the cold and first rain of the year) is certainly a great testimony of their serious intent to communicate a positive message of love and appreciation to their Christian compatriots.