Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Religious Holiday

The Christmas season in New Delhi is always interesting. Because the Christian community is a minority, less than one percent in a city of 12 million, it seems as though the senses of the meaning for the season is heightened for believers. In the states, though there are more overt signs of Christ’s birth, the meaning somehow seems to get lost with other activities. Shopping for gifts, preparing for the Christmas meal with family has a tendency to cast a shadow over the purpose of the day. However, when you are a religious minority, Jesus and the celebration of His incarnation takes on an acute meaning.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a Christmas play at a local Catholic school. Not all students who attend these private schools are Christian. Some of those performing the dance or in the choir are Hindu’s. The Minister of Education, who is a Sikh, attended as a special guest. I wonder what he thought of the play? Did he even understand the message? Probably not. To those who are not familiar with the story of Christmas it’s just a day in which Christians celebrate the birth of our Great Guru and nothing else.

The following Sunday we went to church along with two Muslims. One is an Indian from Toronto, the other a student from the Ivory Coast. The Indian is more of a cultural Muslim who has relatives who are Christians. She actually likes Christmas -- the music, food and even being in church. The African said it was the first time he had ever been in a church. As a student in a foreign country and away from his culture that would frown on such activities, his introduction to the message of Christmas was new and no doubt confusing.

As I sat there listening to the sermon I couldn’t help but think how the message of God becoming man, born over 2,000 years ago, must sound incredibly farfetched to non-believers. How difficult it must be for them to comprehend the significance of Jesus’ birth. An incredible story told in a land where the story is just incredible.

For those who are followers of Christ, Christmas marks the beginning of the salvation story. Christ did not become man just to be a good teacher or set an example of how to live, but He came for a purpose…to die for the atonement of man’s sin. When Christians see the scenes of Christ born in Bethlehem, they also see Him crucified on a cross outside of Jerusalem.

On Christmas Day most of the world will have a holiday. A day, that once was exclusively a holiday for Christians, is now a global holiday celebrated with gifts and parties by Hindu’s, Buddhist’s and Atheist’s. While the majority in this great country will recognize December 25th at as merely a Christian religious holiday, for millions in the minority Christmas Day will mean much more.