christMAS isn’t CHRISTmas

Posted on December 27, 2012

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Something has desperately gone wrong with CHRISTmas and it has been in this sorry state for a long time. Isn’t it time for followers of CHRIST to take charge of CHRISTmas before it is lost to the way of the world permanently?

Mine own encounter with this particular time of the year, this time round, started weeks before when I sat down at a cafeteria in a mall with a good university classmate in earnest talk regarding what it really means to follow Christ minus all the trappings of institutional requirements that has surrounded so-called Christianity today. Then the shrill howling of a much distressed little boy called for attention from the entire area. The equally distressed young parents were doing what they could to attend to the poor child. And what or who did this Muslim family encounter to have caused this rude interruption to their family outing at the mall elaborately decorated for christMAS? Who else but the redoubtable  Santa Claus! A figure now synonymous with christMAS that is said to be a copy of Saint Nicholas. A very poor copy it has turned out to be!

This ‘Santa’ institution promotes the liberal giving of gifts – suitable, appropriate or otherwise – in the most indiscriminate way in that it helps big commercial houses market and get rich on all and sundry products, without due regard to what CHRISTmas is about.

CHRIST’s birthday must be the only one where the practice is that gifts are given to others rather than to the Person whose birthday is being commemorated. Not that the giving of good gifts in itself is unbecoming on the birthday of ONE Who gave himself to human kind but if this were the case surely the poor and the destitute would make better choice of recipients. I once had the good fortune of knowing a couple newly posted to Manila and learned that at each CHRISTmas, the wife would bake cakes and distribute to those who dwell in non-regulated housing areas. She did this each year wherever part of the world her husband was posted to.

Even children of families of substance could do with special CHRISTmas gifts, provided these gifts are not so much material gifts, which they don’t really need, but in the imitation of CHRIST, gifts of love, forgiveness, patience, goodwill, listening ears and hearts, more time and attention with their busy parents, and reminders of Who is and why CHRIST was born into this world in the first place.

The British newspapers reported the goings-on of Black Friday, the Friday before Christmas where office Christmas parties and frantic shopping take place. Not to mention the drinking. The following  warning was issued:

“The Christmas season often sees an increased risk of these offences taking place and excess Christmas alcohol consumption is almost always a key factor.

Sadly time and again we hear of women who have put themselves at risk on nights out through being too drunk, or of men and women who have lost control and committed acts of violence against their partners or others through too much booze.

Offences such as one punch manslaughter clearly demonstrate how a flash of alcohol fuelled temper can result in life-changing consequences for the victim’s family and the perpetrator left facing years in prison as a result of seeing red.
– Detective Chief Inspector, West Yorkshire Police”

Notwithstanding this police advisory, the papers reported that both men and women were so drunk this last Black Friday that many could only move by crawling on all fours!

Even here in Malaysia, the christMAS revelries went past midnight so that the newspaper reports were that of a couple who were waylaid in the carpark by gang of robbers at four in the morning. A most unfortunate happening and I am sorry indeed for the victims.

But what I most object to is the fact that the birthday of CHRIST should be judged a suitable time for revelries. Because it is a deeply religious occasion. You don’t get such revelries at the Hindu Thaipusam, or the Buddhist Wesak, or the Muslim Eid ul-Fitr (festivity of breaking the fast).

Nor is the world at large to be faulted for this. We who are followers of CHRIST let this happen. It is so predictable, yet followers of CHRIST invariably follow the way of the world each christMAS season by accepting the ‘Santa Claus’ culture of indiscriminate exchange of material gifts and big makan (feasting) and the christMAS holiday songs about snow, reindeers and the like.

“Joy to the World” isn’t about revelries and indiscriminate merry-making. The CHRISTmas JOY is explicitly because “… The LORD has come!” This kind of JOY cannot be emulated or enhanced by alcohol intake or pranks or irresponsible driving which take life and plunge the human world into distress and heartache. The CHRISTmas JOY does not give human beings a aftermath hangover.

“CHRISTmas isn’t CHRISTmas till it happens in your heart
Somewhere deep inside you is where Christmas really starts
So give your heart to Je-sus you discover when you do
That it’s Christmas, really Christmas for you.” (Carol Owen)

This must happen to us followers of CHRIST. We need in our own lives and purpose to rediscover what CHRISTmas is and why it is.

I appeal to my CHRISTian friends wherever you may be. We have twelve months to contemplate, ponder, plan to usher in an authentic commemoration of CHRISTs birthday. And BANISH the insidious wrong notions that the rest of the world as well as our own selves (if we are willing to admit it) have about this critical BIRTH event and respect the CHRIST Whose birth was met with the chorus of

“a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,’GLORY TO GOD in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased'” (Luke 2.13,14)

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Posted in: Perspective