“Let it be Christmas” by Alan Jackson has quickly become one of my favorite Christmas songs this season…and I realize that by saying that I just revealed my inner redneck (as if you didn’t know it already existed). As further evidence of my redneck tendencies, “Christmas in Dixie” by Alabama is also on that list of Christmas favorites. Anyways, if you are not familiar with “Let it be Christmas” – and you should be – he talks about how it should be Christmas everywhere and that everyone would know the story of hope and joy and peace. I think the song has come to mean more to me this year as I am not residing where Christmas for me is usually celebrated, so I truly want it to be Christmas here in my home in Africa as well as my parent’s home in South Georgia. In my own little way I guess I defined that as Christmas everywhere – both here and there.
However, as I listened to the song this season, I realized that it is in fact not Christmas everywhere. It sounds obvious, but I never really thought about it till now. Where I live, 97% of the people do not believe in Jesus as Savior and therefore for them Christmas is non-existent. We turn Christmas into something that has nothing to do with Jesus and in that sense I guess it can be “Christmas” everywhere. People all over the world probably are celebrating “Christmas” or their version of Christmas with Christmas trees and decorations and gifts, but without Christ it can never be Christmas. I realized while mindlessly singing along to the song that it is not possible to be Christmas everywhere until everyone has heard the story of Christ’s birth and offer of salvation to all. As I read in Matthew 1:21 this morning, “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” In one statement, the Bible takes Jesus from a baby in a manger to our savior dying on the cross for our sins. The name Jesus literally means “Yahweh saves” and that is the joy that we celebrate at Christmas, not simply that a baby was born, but that God sent a baby, His son, to save us from our sins. But the people I live among don’t know and/or don’t believe that. Heck, from conversations I have had, they don’t believe in sin either (it is called a mistake), so for them there is no realization of being saved from their sins. It is not Christmas everywhere…it is not Christmas for the Sparrow people.
Tomorrow I am having an American Christmas party with two of my closer friends here to share with them what Christmas is to us. We will ice and decorate Christmas tree cookies and drink Apple cider and the house is all decorated. But most importantly, I will share with them about the birth of Jesus, how He was God’s gift to the world to save them from their sins, and just what it is that we celebrate this Christmas season. Please ask that they have ears to hear the joy I long to share with them.
In other absolutely non-spiritual news, do you have any idea how hard it is to explain to people about all the different things we do for Christmas? Things like putting a Christmas tree in our house and decorating it with lights and ornaments. Of course, there is no such word as “ornament” in this language and I have no idea how to explain to them about putting up a Christmas tree. Or what about the fact that everything is red, white, and green in my house…and I don’t know why?! And what about stuff like snow. They have never seen snow, only hail, so again there is no real word for it in the language. The other day my language teacher and I made paper snowflakes and it was such an absolutley foreign concept to her as to what snow was and why in the world we would make it out of paper and hang it on the wall (she loved doing it by the way). There are many many daily things that are just about impossible to explain or define to my friends here, but I have found myself in a whole new heap of trouble when explaining all of the craziness that makes up our celebration of the Christmas holiday. If only I were able to explain the real reason we celebrate….the rest is nothing but fluff.