Is Christmas just for Christians? Christmas is very widely celebrated in many countries around the world. For many however, Christmas is a strictly secular affair – no need for a religious reason to celebrate the season. It’s a special time of the year to remember family and spend time with loved ones, minus the nativity. The miracle of Jesus’ birth is far from the minds of many. Rather for them, Christmas is all about gift-exchanging, merry making, drinking and feasting. For commercial stores, Christmas is a money-making season. In Singapore, the culture of gift-giving is relatively strong because we are a consumer society. As Christians, many of us are also caught up in the business of buying and exchanging gifts.
While my children were growing up, my husband and I tried to create a festive Christmas atmosphere by keeping up with the traditions of decorating the Christmas tree together, singing Christmas carols, organizing a family feast and stashing presents under the Christmas tree. Though we enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to celebrate with family, it became increasingly evident that these traditions could easily overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.
When all these embellishments are stripped away, how can we still celebrate Christmas and keep our constant focus in life on CHRIST? In predominantly non-Christian countries, such as Pakistan, Christian communities sometimes celebrate Christmas amidst heightened security over fears of possible attacks by extremists. I believe they do so and take the risk because their focus is on the CHRIST of Christmas, the most valuable gift that anyone can ever receive. We too can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas daily by treasuring the redemptive gift of God we have in Christ.
As the years passed, celebrating Christmas at my home with family and close relatives became a time for us to share it with my non-Christian relatives and friends. I am reminded not to allow the world to fit us into its mold. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) So consciously and intentionally, we pray and plan to include in our celebration redemptive elements that will remind us and our non-Christian relatives or friends that Christmas is about the miraculous birth of Christ and God’s gift of eternal life.
Here are some traditions that can make Christmas more meaningful: scripture reading on the birth of Christ; carol singing; playing DVDs to share the story of Christian love; sharing testimonies; simplifying gift-giving; remembering and sharing with those who are lonely at Christmas; praying for loved ones, etc.
As we celebrate another Christmas, let us remember not to allow the wrong priorities to remove the CHRIST from our Christmas. Let us remember the love of God that caused Him to “give His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) May we seek opportunities to share that gift of eternal life with those who have yet to know the love of God. I wish you all a blessed Christmas, filled with the love of God’s redemptive presence.
By Har Lee John, Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 21&22 December 2013)