Well, this is definitely the most unusual Christmas I have ever experienced. I am sitting outside in a chair that rocks back and forth on the uneven ground (not to be confused with a rocking chair). I am wearing my gold sari dress with its short-sleeved blouse, but I am not cold even though it is December 25th.
I am sitting on the left side with all the other women; the men all sit on the right. In front, a large collection of blankets and cloths provide seating for a group of dark-haired children. The patches of people form a colorful quilt in the morning sun.
Up front, the stage stands decorated with the bright, lavishly-colored cloths that signify celebration. Blue and green cloths drape across the top, while pink cloths bearing sketches of palm trees, hills, and birds border the sides.
In any other Christmas service, I would feel guilty for describing the setting instead of listening to the sermon. However, since I cannot understand the Bengali language (yet), listening or not listening today is of little consequence.
After the service it will be visiting time. It is done every year; it is how they celebrate Christmas Day here in Bangladesh. We will leave the patchwork places and wander from one mud house to another. The global workers will be repeatedly stuffed with various Bengali sweets and tea at each house, with them saying, “If you love us, you will eat more.”
Then, after that, we will return to our little American buildings with their Christmas trees and have our own cultural celebrations of this special day.
Which way is better? Neither. Which way pleases the Savior? Both. I have a feeling it does not matter what the outward traditions are; it is the celebration that happens in the heart and the soul that delights the One we celebrate.
Today does not feel like Christmas to me, but perhaps that is good. My comfortable haven of feelings is gone, the traditions I love far, far away.
As I sit here—not in front of a fireplace with the people I love most, not making cookies, and no background of music with which I can sing along, but instead sitting outside in a sari listening to hundreds of words I cannot understand—I contemplate what Christmas really means me.
Do I really need the tear-filled service, the singing, the plays, and the countless little reminders? Does my heart need to be filled with so many other things before it feels like Christmas? Can I not celebrate Christ alone?
Perhaps, this year, Christ alone will fill my heart. His love, His Gift, will be my Christmas. In the normality, and in the abnormality of today, it can be Christmas in my heart. I know it can, for Christmas is Christ.
I just do not know how.
Dear Father God, fill me with Yourself and Your heart. Show me Christmas as it should be. Let me celebrate Heaven’s greatest Gift as You intended. Let my Christmas be as Yours. My Christmas with people, yet alone, but not alone, for all of Heaven celebrates with me.
What a beautiful word. What a beautiful day.
Questions to consider: How can Christmas truly be as Christ’s? How do you remember that even if you are alone at Christmas, all of Heaven celebrates with you?