One of the strangest Christmases I’ve experienced was when I was living in Beijing.
The weather was freezing as is common for North China at that time of year but as the days rolled towards the 25th I was finally treated to soft, delicate snowflakes raining down on the city. The red, green and white tinsel was draped around many shop windows, Santa effigies were peppered around restaurants and malls and Christmas trees were on display. In other words it was the kind of Christmas (albeit with a heavy Sino flavouring) you might see in a movie: the snow, the Santas, the trees, the decorations, etc.
But it was strange and oddly unsettling. It was a simulacrum in a country where Christianity still lives under the watchful eye of the government. It’s estimated that China boasts over 50 million Christians but it is still a nation where some churches are forced to install CCTV by the authorities who are fed live feeds.
A lot of people will celebrate “Christmas” there but it has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus and I can only speculate that they’re not exactly concerned about the plight of repressed Chinese Christians as they exchange gifts.
My point is that we can dress up a society with as much of the tinsel as we like but that spiritual void will not be filled with anything other than the Christian narrative underpinning the festivities.
We in the west are victims of this too. We can get so caught up in the consumerist vision of Christmas and the gifts, the holidays, the food and beverages, that the actual birth of Jesus can slightly fall down the pecking order of importance.
Has the story of Jesus’ birth become such a well-worn part of your Christmas routine that the brilliant spark of wonder and hope been drained from festivities?
The Queensland Synod’s Christmas campaign theme—“Rediscover the wonder”—has been created to get people to reflect on what makes Christmas so wonderful and then champion that in their communities. Trinity College Queensland’s Rev Nigel Rogers has written a superb piece tied to this theme and I hope it provides you with some food for thought about the wonder of Christmas and how God is the key to a flourishing, abundant life.
Merry Christmas and see you all in 2019!