When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy……Matthew 2:10
When I first came to Ukraine, Christmas was not celebrated on December 25th. (It still isn’t, but the holiday preparations are starting this week which helps for those of us who are used to celebrating on the 25th.) There were no lights, no trees, no songs, no bustle on the street, no presents to wrap. I spent Christmas eve at a missionary’s home eating a potluck meal and watching a children’s Christmas pageant with no lights, no trees, no manger, no costumes, no…..you get the picture. It was weird, uncomfortable and depressing and it hit home with me what I’d done with my life. I’d become a missionary and was living in a place devoid of any signs of what I knew as Christmas.
Ukraine still celebrates Christmas in January according to the Orthodox calendar and I’ve adjusted to the fact that New Year’s Eve is much closer to what I know as Christmas in regards to celebrating. Thankfully, even with Christmas not coming until January 7th, there is already a Yolka (New Year’s tree) and for the last few years there are more holiday events and areas which are decorated for Christmas. I just put my tree up later than I would in the states and take it down after January 7th. I’ve learned to just deal with how weird it feels.
What I’ve learned from all this is that whether you live where Christmas is over commercialized and designed to stress you and your budget out or if you live in a place where no one celebrates it, Christmas isn’t really about all the extra stuff that goes on. It’s great and I enjoy it. I love the music, the Christmas shows, choir performances, parades, trees, lights, food, family, presents, friends…..but none of that really is what Christmas is all about.
I realize I’m starting to sound like, “Charlie Brown Christmas” and that wasn’t where I was going with this when I started writing, but in light of the fact that I read this week that a school in the states actually took out Linus’ monologue on the real meaning of Christmas, in their play because it was….offensive…..maybe I need to refresh us all…..
No matter how crazy the Christmas season gets….whether it’s because of busyness or the lack of being able to celebrate it, Christmas will always be about that one baby that was born in a manager to change the world.
When Christmas gets too crazy, look up. Look up to the star on top of your tree. Look up to the stars in the heaven, look up to the God who loved you so much he sent his son into this insane world to save you and reconcile you to him. It’s not offensive, it’s called love. That’s what Christmas is all about. Look up at the star on top of your tree and remember this. Look up.