There was a severe drought in Israel and Elijah, the man of God, was sent to Sidon by God. As he arrived at the city gate, there was a poor widow who was fetching firewood in order to prepare a meal for herself and her son. Unfortunately, this would be their last meal.
Despite the fact that she was walking in the shadow of death, she still was cheerful. She still could take orders even from thirsty and starving strangers. She was willing to share her last meal with the stranger who happened to be the man of God, Elijah.
Her willingness to share the little food she had was rewarded more than she ever imagined: her food never ran out until the end of the drought.
This is a story of the vulnerabilities of being a woman, a mother and a widow in a country where widows and orphans had little or no protection at all.
It is a story of the flying away of hope in a society where others still had food, but would not share. It is a story of courageous acceptance of the reality, or the moment of truth, death, by a marginalised and disadvantaged woman.
It is a story of pain and suffering by a mother who knew quite well that after that very last meal she would see her son die of starvation without her being able to do anything about it.
The meal was supposed to be the last supper for the woman and her son, had not the man of God timeously intervened. This also is a story of the willingness to share that brought back life, hope and more food for the woman, her son and the stranger.
This story can inspire us during this feastive season. Some years ago Christmas was considered very important by most Zimbabweans.
That was the time when members of different families would gather for Christmas celebrations.
During this day families interacted and shared the meals which they had prepared for their families. Our mothers made it a point that there was more than enough food for the family and some more for visitors who would arrive without any warning.
My uncle made sure that there was enough bread, meat and tea for the extended family. Although he was a poor man he sacrificed a lot of money in order to feed the extended family on this occassion.
All over Zimbabwe sons and daughters would come back to their rural homes bringing food and other gifts for their parents and siblings.
That was the spirit of the season; the spirit of sharing.
Unfortunately, things have changed, probably because of the economic challenges Zimbabwe is facing and the scarcity of the American dollar Zimbabweans are using.
More and more people are becoming more concerned about their immediate families. Parents and siblings have been forgotten. One or more Christmasses have come and gone and some people have done nothing for their parents, brothers and sisters.
Probably they have not started thinking about what their mothers and fathers would eat this Christmass as well.
Some of us grew up under the guardianship of poor mothers, some of them widows who struggled to make ends meet; widows of Zarephath, widows of Zimbabwe. These mothers made heroic efforts to provide for us all year round and more so at Christmas.
There are many orphans in the villages where we live or come from, who have nothing to eat at Christmas and are waiting for the appearance of the man of God, Elijah, you and me. We do not have enough information about the widow of Zarephath but we can do a fruitful reconstruction of the story.
Probably other vilagers still had food but they did not care to share it with her and her son because they thought that it was only enough for them. It seems that they would appear to bury her after her death because of starvation.
It could be that the widow had other children who were gainfully employed somewhere in Sidon, but did not take care of their widowed and poor mother.
They reasoned out that they earned very little which was not even enough for their own children.
Probably many people in Zarephath had no food but they were not as vulnerable as this widow. Definitely there were other widows in Zarephath, but their children probably took care of them.
Whenever I read this story I am compelled to think that Elijah did not perform a miracle here.
After he had eaten the bread that the poor woman had baked and with the full knowledge that that was her last meal, he went into the village to mobilise the villagers to share what they had with the woman who anticipated death because of starvation.
Probably those who still had some food gave heed to Elijah’s plea and enough food was gathered, not only for the widow of Zarephath and her son, but also for other villagers who were in the same predicament.
The writer of Kings considered it a miracle because the powerful hand of God had transformed a selfish people into a sharing community.
The widow of Zarephath could be your mother, and her son your brother or sister; spare a few dollars for them this Christmas.
God can perform another Zarephathean miracle through you, not for a stranger but for your own mother, brother or sister.
You can perform a miracle for the orphans in your extended family or village by mobilising people to share the little they have.
The widow of Zarephath is in Zimbabwe right now, perform a miracle this Christmas, because you are the starving stranger; Elijah that God has sent.
You are starving because you do not earn enough money but you have the audacity to share. Zarephath is here, the widow and the orphan are here and you are Elijah, perform a miracle.
Dr John Chitakure is a practical theologian working in Zimbabwe who writes in his personal capacity.
He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org