It’s 9 pm on Christmas Eve.  Many in the UK will be busily wrapping presents or preparing food or collapsing in front of the telly or getting ready to go out for Midnight Mass.  Here in the Chadian capital N’Djaména it’s perhaps a little more like the first Christmas.  It’s cool enough to wear a jacket but warm enough to sit outside.  Tables are haphazardly arranged in a sandy courtyard under a neem tree.  Groups of friends gather in their turbans and flowing, enviably comfortable robes to relax and chat over shared plates of hummus, moutabal and fattoush. I meanwhile am looking forward to my camel steak. For many, tomorrow may be just another day.

Yes, the modern world has crept in to this first-century middle-eastern scene.  There are lights flickering in the trees that surround our plastic tables, and the sound system reminds us ingratiatingly if rather incongruously that Santa Claus is coming to town and we should be dreaming of a White Christmas.  Even with climate change that could be a long time coming for the Sahara.

But in some ways not much has changed.  2,400 years ago the Old Testament Prophet Malachi – often quoted during Advent – reminded us that part of preparing for Christmas is to pay people a living wage, take care of those who have no support network, and treat foreigners fairly.

As I look around this ramshackle restaurant in one of the world’s poorest countries and wonder what the Chadians make of the idea that Santa might hurry down the chimney tonight in a country that rarely needs any heating, I feel immensely privileged to be a small part of the work that Cord does here to raise opportunities and expectations, so that hopes and dreams this Christmas are still possible.