Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas is a time to Love

Friend: 'Isaac, I come visit you on Christmas day ok? Very bored la here..'

Isaac:' Sure sure, come come. You can come with me to spend Christmas day with my pastors at their house.'

Friend: 'So how to get to your place ah?'

Isaac: *pauses* 'Alamak! Christmas day got no public transport!'

Friend: 'Taxi le? I don't mind paying.'

Isaac: 'I don't even think you will get a taxi la, Its Christmas Day!'

Christmas is the biggest holiday season for the majority of the western world. It is estimated that UK consumers spend about £20billion in gifts during that short 1 month spending spree. People will save up an entire year to be able to buy presents for their family and friends. For most retail businesses, it's a time to cash in on the habitual spending season. For children, its a time to play, get new toys, eat chocolates and sweets all day. Boys look forward to their favourite football jersey or the latest games console. Girls wish for their favourite dress or heels or even the latest fashion set. Men the latest technology or gadgets, women have an never ending list that I won't even attempt to list out.

Another interesting fact is that on Christmas morning, the church, chapel or cathedral is packed to the brim for the first time in 365 days. They some times call it ending the year with a bang! Attending Christmas service has become some sort of a pilgrimage or ritual for many. For many of these so called 'Christmas service goers', they might be able to recite Matthew 1 and Luke 2 by heart so the good thing is that at least they're memorising scripture.

A sight that is rarely seen in Malaysia is empty high streets. I first experienced this in Buenos Aires, Argentina when i was there over Christmas a few years ago. We were staying in a hotel right in the middle of their busiest shopping street. I remember coming down on Christmas morning and it was dead, you could even hear the pin dropping even before it touched the ground. It is likewise in London. Christmas eve is swarming with people doing last minute shopping, Christmas day is as empty as my stomach now and the people pack the streets again on Boxing day for the sales. The contrasts is enormous especially when it is only in a space of 3 days.

Some Christians have also gone to the extreme of condemning Christmas as merely a pagan ritual that promotes imprudent spending. A very small minority don't even celebrate Christmas as an act of protest against Santa, reindeers, mistletoe and even presents. Claiming that historically, Jesus wasn't even born on the 25th day of the 12th month. I agree that many of us have been brought up with an expectation of things like presents, roast turkey and singing carols which has certainly become more of a ritual than many of us realise.

In the past decade or so, preachers have been coming with quotes like 'Christ is the reason for this Christmas season' and my very own 'Christmas without Christ is just Mas'. Putting the focus back to Jesus is great and absolutely necessary reminder for us all. I know many churches that put up great performances, bonanzas and events as an opportunity to share the good news of Christ during this season. But, imagine Christmas without presents? or fasting during the Christmas week? Can do? So much for Christmas is all about Christ huh..

Christmas has an unusual feel that unites and bonds people of all faiths and races. Even those who do not practice the faith of Christianity spend Christmas with their family over this holiday season- at least in the UK. The nation is at a virtual standstill for a full 48 hours or so. Silent night does actually exist if you are on a deserted university campus, high street or cottage in the countryside. There seems to be a special feeling around and about the place. I call it Love.

The song 'Christmas is a time to Love' is one of my favourite caroling songs. Christmas for me is ultimately about 3 things.
1. Christ
Jesus' birthday speaks not only the birth of our Lord and saviour but faithfulness of the Father to his sons and daughters on earth.

2. Love
Presents, food, chocolates are all acts of love that many might not know how to express. It is a form of love that is most recognised by the majority.

3. Family
An incredible bond in the family happens during Christmas. I have heard many stories of reconciliation among family members so that everybody can celebrate a happy Christmas.

Families come together, literally putting a stop to their busy lives to be with loved ones. Culture here is that people do not and will not work over time for money. They will rather spend time with family and take the few days off. Something that might be quite different from Asian cultures.

So why all these blabber?

Its my third year in a row not celebrating Christmas with family. I have always been very close to my family and even the outer family is a very closely knitted group. Do i miss them? Yes of course i do. Its not that only now that i have realised about the importance of family, rather I'm actually an advocate for family values to be instilled back into society. Just that in the UK where this country has been founded on biblical values, it is one of those values that still appears to be embedded within her citizens. I have never experienced such a big scale 'family holiday' before and it is indeed weird to find a virtual standstill in one of the most developed countries on earth.

To wrap this off, this post was inspired by Steven Curtis Chapman's song 'All i really want for Christmas'. Its a beautiful song that i hope you will be blessed and reminder of God's goodness to us. There are many out there who just long to be loved and a family to spend time with. As i was always taught since young, family comes after God in our list of priorities.

All I Really Want
Well, I don't know if you remember me or not,
I'm one of the kids they brought in from the home,
I was the red-haired boy in an old, green flannel shirt,
You may not have seen me, I was standing off alone

I didn't come and talk to you ' cause that's never worked before,
And you'll probably never see this letter, anyway,
But just in case there's something you can do to help me out
I'll ask you one more time

All i really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in,
A shoulder to cry on if i lose, shoulders to ride on if i win,
There's so much I could ask for, but there's just one thing I need
All i really want for Christmas is a family

Well, I guess I should go ahead and tell you now,
If it's really true about that list you have,
Somehow I always seem to end up in a fight,
But I'm really trying hard not to be bad

But maybe if I had a brother of a dad to wrestle with,
Maybe they could teach me how to get along,
and from everything I've heard, it sounds like the greatest gift on earth
Would be a mom

All i want for Christmas is someone who'll be here
To sing me happy birthday for the next 100 years,
And it's okay if they're not perfect or even if they're a little broken,
That's alright, 'Cause so am I

Well, I guess I should go, it's almost time for bed,
Maybe next time I write you'll be at home