It’s interesting to spend Christmas in non-Christian countires. I’ve lived in Japan, Taiwan and China during the Christmas season, and it’s surprising at first to see how much they do celebrate Christmas, though to us Westerners it’s in funny ways. It involves statues of Colonel Sanders dressed up like Santa, festive cakes with strawberries and tiny bearded figurines, and shopping malls decorated with Christmas trees and colorful tinsel and bells, but not an extra shopper in sight. The best I could describe Christmas in China to a friend was, “It’s kind of how Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo. A fun, foreign-themed party with some indulgent food and drinks after work.”
But it’s thought-provoking, when you’re living here, to reflect upon what makes Christmas significant to us as Westerners and to us as Christians. A lot of it is nostalgia and happy memories and culture, but for religious people, what would Christmas in the Non-Christian world really mean? What should it mean? What should we do about it?
If you’re not a religious person, you may expect from the tone of my post that I’m about to expound upon “the real reason for the season” and how we need to “put Christ back in Christmas” and you may be tempted to stop reading here and go on to something less predictable. And while I’m the sort of person who would typically nod in agreement when people express sentiments like that, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I would explain my thoughts about the significance of Christmas to friends who weren’t religious or came from a non-Christian faith background. I kind of did this when I was a missionary in Japan, though at the time I don’t think I really had the language skills necessary to fully communicate what I meant. Hopefully, I can do a little better in English, though how helpful my explanations will be still waits to be seen. Continue reading