Sunday, December 24, 2006

reflections on Christmas

Looking out my hotel window, and across the Red Sea, I can see both Israel and Jordan. Israel is on the left and Jordan is on the right. The Red Sea isn’t red at all but is a crystal clear blue which contrasts off the mountains of Israel and Jordan that reflect red in the evening sun.

All around my hotel are Bedouins who camp on the desert floor, often without shelter and usually accompanied by a camel. A friend recently attended a business conference where one of the speakers suggested that the percentage of poor in the world has not changed, but only the percentage of them that have access to the outside world and, therefore, understand other’s standard of living compared to their own. Still, reality isn’t pretty and, once you leave the safety of the hotel and resort, you’re quickly reminded that the world isn’t one big beach. I’m also reminded, as I look over into Israel tonight, that a Messiah was born, just over there, to pay for our sins and to teach us how to live with each other.

When we wish somebody a Merry Christmas, I wonder what we’re wishing them? The British wish people a Happy Christmas because to wish somebody a Merry one would be to wish them one with much drunkenness. Either way, I wonder what the meaning is behind the phrase? Goodness? Happiness? Joy? Do we do it militantly sometimes? Sort of a “you’ll be wished a Merry Christmas and you’ll like it!” approach to the season? Maybe, when we wish somebody a Merry or Happy Christmas, it should be a reminder to us of how Jesus instructed us to treat others. To love them. To forgive them. To serve them. To give them the shirt off our very back if they need it. Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, the one who came, not only to forgive us of our sins, but who also came to teach us how to live down here on earth. He summed up the entire Old Testament by telling us to love God and love others and most of the time, when he talked of sin, he was talking about how we treat each other, loved ones and enemies alike. The story of Jesus is a fascinating one, an inspiring one, and one that even others outside our faith look at with respect. But sometimes we as Christians lose sight of the story and the message of Jesus’ life.

Tonight we had a Christmas dinner here at the hotel. All around us were Muslim staff serving us in Santa hats and wishing us a Merry Christmas. It made me wonder what they thought of our holiday. The Muslims know about Jesus. They consider him to be a great prophet with a wonderful message. They especially respect his message concerning the poor. But when it comes to Christmas, they understand it as a holiday about Santa, and hats, and lavish spending. I wonder if we as Christians understand it that way as well. And while it was nice to be wished a merry Christmas here in Egypt, so far away from home, it also grieved my heart just a little bit to look around and see that, somewhere along the way, we kind of lost the plot. Christians and non-Christians alike.

And so tonight, with the lights of Israel off in the distance, I send out a Merry Christmas and a hope that I will remember the plot.

Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer. If you understand what I'm telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life. Matthew 13:12-17

Merry Christmas.

Comments on "reflections on Christmas"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:27 PM) : 

Happy Christmas to you and your's. Hug Jamie and Olyvia and thank the Father for them. I hope you are able to share real Christmas values with your Muslim hosts.



Blogger Jim said ... (4:15 PM) : 

I can't imagine celebrating Christmas with the ability to see Israel out of my window. How amazing. I think, today, we say things like Merry Christmas or God Bless You (after a sneeze - even with its pagan roots) as a subtle (code-like) way of letting people know we believe in God. This seems true with Merry Christmas especially in light of the dispute last year about whether kettle workers were allowed to say it or whether they had to say Happy Holidays (so as not to be offensive). Incidentally, I think its also why many wear t-shirts with some Christian message on it. I have never seen a non-believer impacted by one, but I have often heard other Christians say "nice-shirt" (translated: "I believe too").


Blogger Cari said ... (6:01 PM) : 

Merry and Happy Christmas in my house means "What did ya git me?"

So, love you guys...Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!


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