I love Christmas..all of it. I love the lights, the tree, Advent, buying gifts, stockings, chocolate, Christmas carols, St. Nicholas Day...all of it. Since Christmas is an ordinary day in China and there isn't the shopping frenzy that happens post Thanksgiving in the US, our holiday here has been more simple and maybe more focused.
The day before Christmas, I read this rather depressing article. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2011/1222/Christmas-craze-fills-Chinese-malls-if-not-its-churches?cmpid=addthis_facebook#.TvUsoAhdnh0.facebook Here is one of the quotes "Ms. Qu has celebrated Christmas for the last few years, she says “because it’s a fashion and it happens all over the world.” This year she plans to go with her husband and friends to a restaurant and then a karaoke bar on Christmas Eve – a habit that millions of other young Chinese urbanites share"
Somewhat ironically, a little while after reading this article, Elisabeth and I went out shopping for some gifts. We went to a traditional shopping area and then an upscale mall. So I just have to say, dear China (and around the world)....Christmas is not any of the following things...
Christmas is not Santa (even though I am not against him). It is especially not Santa with a large "Merry" and a very small "Christmas."
Christmas is not store window displays...cute though this one was.
It's not elaborate entrances to malls...
Or twisted trees
Mary and Joseph probably didn't think the blood, sweat and tears of giving birth would lead to displays for "Romantic Christmas." I don't know if there was romance in the manger but there was love, wonderful love.
Even cute little girls in Christmas themed dresses can not capture the meaning of Christmas.
No, Christmas is not any of those things. The first verse of "Oh, Holy Night" says
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine
Artist: He Qi
Our souls feel our worth as we know that God became man for us. The incarnation is real and meaningful and gritty. The visit of the angel to a young virgin was stunning and probably scary. The sharing with Elizabeth was real as Mary really knew she was pregnant by then. She needed another woman to share the burden of this unexpected news.
Nativity: Lu Lan
Jesus was born in the usual way-blood, sweat, pain and joy. The amazing writer Sarah Bessey wrote on birth and it's connection to incarnation this powerful essay - Incarnation. Read this beautiful quote and the click on the link below. You won't be sorry.
But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.
My entire concept of God shifted in that moment, leaving my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep. I could never see God as anything other than through the lens of the Incarnation, of his Father-Mother heart and his birth now. No theologian or counter-circumstance-experience can take away from what I know, what many mothers the world over know in their heart of hearts about loss and birth and raising babies and real transformation: it’s Love and it is sacred and it is human and it all redeems. The very truth that God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood through birth, even – especially – that experience of birth, now showing us what it means to be truly human.http://deeperstory.com/incarnation/