Does it change the meaning of Christmas because I’m in a different context? It changes the way we celebrate, and living in a Muslim majority means nobody else is celebrating, so we are not surrounded by the commercial trappings of NZ! We’ve had more freedom to choose the way we will celebrate, something I am very grateful for.
But the meaning of Christmas is the same….God himself, came down to us, the astonishing truth of the incarnation; His love was so unimaginably great that it led to the cross, the resurrection, and the ongoing incarnation of Christ amongst us. As I sit on a mud floor with a poor believer, or worship with our city house church, it reminds me of the largeness and inclusiveness of this world wide family I’m a part of. The richness of a family that includes different languages, races and cultures, and yet is one family.
So, does the context matter? Perhaps. Culture changes the way we view things. The locals here view Christmas as a community time, and not just family. I’ve resented the claims to my time, and it took me too long to join in! Yet, if Christmas is when we celebrate ‘Emmanuel’, God amongst us, we need to take the time to be us, to be together and let God be amongst us, as community. For NZ Christians it is mostly a family time, (so church be careful not to take too much time and interfere with that!) It’s not that family isn’t important here, it’s very much part of Christmas, and yet Christmas is larger than that here, it is the Christian community coming together. The community sings (endlessly at times!), we pray, we dress up, we decorate the church, we invite others, we have meetings every night for a week at different houses, we get up far too early and go to church for 3 hours, and as a community we even eat together on Christmas day. And then for good measure we have a family talent or fun night, and a gift ceremony as well.
The meaning of Christmas in our context, is that we remember and do this whole Christmas thing together, as the Christian community.
Cindy serves with her husband Ross in South Asia