When and What is Christmas? The Gift of Togetherness

So it is Christmas. In Ethiopia, it is not. The
Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church believes that
Jesus was born on January 7th. And for the majority
of people around the world, today is just another day.

The more you travel, the more you realize that your
life is little more than a set of variables and
conditions that shape your reality into a current
state of being. For example, I received several
Thanksgiving wishes back in November, but Thanksgiving
wasn’t even in my mind. While I liked being thought
of by others, the day did not resonate with me while
sitting down to a plate of rice and beans in Nigeria.

Here in Ethiopia, people are not gearing up for
Christmas on the 25th. They do talk about January
7th, but you do not see the commercialization of the
day. Ethiopians are serious religious people. They
live their beliefs and believe in the faith. They
observe seven fasting seasons throughout the year.
Christmas is truly the day their savior was born, but
Easter is the more important day. Easter is the day
their Savior proved he is the Son of God.

Whether you believe the way Ethiopians do or not, one
has to respect the honesty with which they worship.
It is deeply personal, though they come together in
community to worship together on Sundays, on holy
days, and on the days given to honor the saints.
Humbleness can be seen on their faces as they exit
church and walk home.

I sometimes wish Christmas could be that way in the
States. Some of you may argue that it is, or that it
can be. I am too cynical to believe that. I think
Christmas has been lost to the pocketbook culture of
our country. How can we believe in Jesus when we
complain about a line not moving fast enough at the
toy store?

Where can we find THE gift to end all gifts when the
pile under the tree hides the manger? Is the manger
even there?

Christmas. It has little to do with holiness and
saviors for me anymore. I will enjoy being with my
family though. I wish we could just hang out, have
some beers and celebrate our relationships.

I wish my little cousins and nieces and nephews
wouldn’t associate December 25th with the time when
s/he gets more gifts than s/he needs.

I wish American Christians could go into church, pray,
get filled with the gravity of their day, exit, greet
their friends, come home and sit down and share a
dinner with their families…and when the last dish is
cleaned they could relax together and say, “This year
we are going to give each other only one gift. We are
going to share it. That’s right. There is only one
gift and we all are going to share it. It is the gift
of togetherness. That is our Christmas gift to each
other this year. And if you want to wrap it up, do so
by wrapping your arms around each other in a warm
hug.”

(written 25 December 2005)

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