This week, please join us in prayer for Habtamu Kebede from Ethiopia. While the world faces an uncertain future, Habtamu reminds us that our deliverance comes from the Lord, who keeps our lamps burning.
The second most populous African country, Ethiopia is home to over 109 million people, of whom 44% are Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, 19% Protestants, and 34% Muslims. On January 7, Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia – and elsewhere in North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe – celebrated Christmas! (January 7 in the Gregorian calendar corresponds to December 25 in the older Julian calendar used in some Orthodox traditions.) On January 6, many Christians around the world also celebrated Epiphany, which commemorates the Magi’s visit to the Christ child and, thus, the revelation of the incarnate God to Gentiles.
Habtamu is pursuing a PhD in Contextual Theology at Asian Theological Seminary (Philippines). His research develops a biblical theology of prophecy for Ethiopian Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. Since 2008, Habtamu has lectured at Ethiopian Full Gospel Theological Seminary (Addis Ababa), a client school of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative. He also serves as Treasurer for the Association of Evangelical Theological Institutions in Ethiopia (AETIE). Habtamu is married to Netsanet Alemu Hanano and they have two sons: nine-year-old Nathan and six-year-old Dan.
Habtamu shares the following devotional and prayer requests:
Christmas is a major holiday for Christians in Ethiopia. Members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church observe days of fasting before Christmas. There is usually a Eucharistic service at church on Christmas Eve, when worshippers will dress in white traditional attire. On Christmas Day, there is usually a church service in the morning for Evangelicals. Afterward, families celebrate by having a special meal together.
Unlike in many parts of the world, Christmas is celebrated in Ethiopia on January 7. This is because Ethiopia goes by the Julian calendar, following the Coptic Church of Alexandria. The Julian calendar is almost eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. It is now 2013 AD in Ethiopia!
God Changes Darkness into Light
The year 2020 has been very difficult for most Ethiopians. In addition to the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has experienced several ethnic conflicts, which have claimed several hundred lives.
In November, war broke out in the northern part of the country between the federal government and a regional government. Though the war is now over, the country has yet to recover from the aftermath.
Ethiopia is also scheduled to hold general elections this June. Given the tensions between rival parties, there is much uncertainty regarding the outcome. As we celebrate Christmas in such a situation I would like to share a passage from Psalm 18:27-29:
You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
You, LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
This passage is found in a thanksgiving psalm, where David praises God for an answered prayer. From what God has done in his life, David derives a theological lesson on God’s deliverance.
God is the God of the weak and afflicted, who have been humbled due to the injustices caused by the proud. In contemporary Ethiopia, many of our problems are due to the lack of peaceful coexistence among people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Oftentimes, tension among ethnic groups is incited by elites, who use ethnic conflict as a means to further their ambitions. It seems that the gain of the few depends on the loss of the many. Therefore, it is very relevant for us in Ethiopia to believe and pray to God, that he might save his humble people as we celebrate Christmas. The deliverance of the many means that the dangerous ambition of the few must be brought to nothing.
In vv. 28-29, dimensions of God’s deliverance are variously expressed. First, God’s deliverance changes darkness into light. Darkness represents evil forces that upset one’s life to the point of despair. Light refers to life, guidance, and hope. God’s saving power will counter the effects of evil forces in his people’s lives.
Second, God’s deliverance is also expressed as advancing against a troop. This refers to the victory that comes from God. For the Christians in this era, the true nature of the conflict is spiritual and moral. Hence, the victory we are seeking is also spiritual and moral.
Finally, there is a metaphor of scaling a wall. In the Old Testament, walls are often a symbol of protection and safety against an enemy. In this passage, however, the wall represents an obstacle that we need to overcome. Hence, God’s deliverance also involves helping his people to escape from difficult and even life-threatening situations.
For Christians in Ethiopia who are uncertain about the future of our country and our beloved ones, there is only one place to look for deliverance. Light amid the darkness and victory in battle come from God. This is true for anyone in a situation of darkness and conflict.
1. Ethiopia will hold general elections in June. The present situation of the country is not conducive for holding peaceful elections. Please pray for peaceful elections.
2. I plan to complete my coursework by the end of this year. Please pray for strength and wisdom.