A family of about 20 mongooses visit us once or twice a week. They stole my heart from the very first visit with their inquisitive stares and high-pitched “Mh? Mh?” chirps. They arrive en-masse, chow-down according to their pecking order and then when the leader leaves, they all follow. There are usually one or two who lag behind scrounging leftovers but they soon follow and catch up.
A few months ago, three stragglers ignored the call to go and were separated from their family. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Until I heard the lone, frantic call of a mongoose around our house over the next few days. He was reluctant to come closer to our house alone and he kept crying out in the hope that his family would respond and they could be reunited. His plight made me so sad as I watched him run after the occasional warthog, and even a very noisy Guinea fowl – like a woeful orphan hoping to find acceptance. It was terrible, but the worst was yet to come.
Four days later, he came to our back door and he was clearly in terrible shape. His stomach was hollowed out, his breathing was laboured and he was anxious. I put some raw egg out for him and he scarcely registered it. He waited near our house for a few hours and eventually went away, slowly and painfully, with a single cry and a final penetrating look.
I am not going to lie to you – I cried. A lot! That night it was cold here, and I doubt his condition was conducive to survival through the night. Especially alone without the warmth and support of his family.
I have thought about that mongoose many times since. If only he had not been tempted by one last morsel of yummy food. At a time of the year that has become so commercialised, I think his testimony is worth remembering. How often do we get so caught up in material delights and physical desires, that we get separated from those that we really love and need? We choose stuff, popularity or prestige without realising the cost.
Today, as you get caught up in the rush and crush of “Christmas”, stop and count the cost before you spend. Irrespective of your religious persuasion, the question bears asking. As a Christian, the spirit of Christmas is not in presents and gluttony – it is in the life and gift of Jesus Christ who came to set us free from all these trappings in the first place. I have also always wondered why we get all the presents when it is Jesus’s birthday? Surely we should be asking what we can bring Him? As a non-believer, outside of any belief in the tradition of Christmas, is it not simply a meaningless time of indulgence and chaos?
Just like the mongoose, we need the love and fellowship of our family and friends. It costs nothing and is worth everything. All that glitters is not mongoose food, and it most certainly is not the Christmas spirit either. Put your credit card away and give your love, your time and your attention. Bake some cookies or bless someone in practical meaningful ways. Fellowship and a warm hug would have meant the difference between life and death for that mongoose, and the same is true for many human beings right now, all over the world.
Sometimes, in the pursuit of satisfying our own desires, we even make choices that separate us from the One who gave us life. His gift’s shelf-life is not equal to our appreciation – His arms are open right now to welcome each of us back into the warmth of His life-giving love – no credit card needed.
Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas, filled with love and joy, and the presence of the One who was born to bring us the greatest gift of all. Happy Birthday Jesus!