Christmas can be such a wonderful time of the year. It reminds us of what really is important and for most adults the focus is on giving rather than receiving, which is a healthy thing. Does Christmas have a shadow side? Sure it does. It can devolve into secular consumerism gone amuck and ‘the reason for the season’ can be lost upon some. But I think most keep their focus, if not all their energy, throughout the season.
But one thing that has fascinated me over the years is what I call the “Mr. Bingle” part of Christmas. I thought Christmas was fairly uniform everywhere but the more I have traveled, the more I have learned how different the holiday is celebrated around the world and even nearby. Take, for example, “Mr. Bingle.” Mr. Bingle is a snowman who plays a role in the Santa version of Christmas…he does that is if you grew up in New Orleans (see http://www.mrbinglefans.com/bigkids.shtml ) for more on that. But I quickly found when I moved away from New Orleans that no one had ever heard of him. As an adult I learned some folks open presents on Christmas Eve while others do on Christmas day.
This is even true in churches. Growing up in a Presbyterian Church originally, we had Christmas Eve services. Baptists didn’t have these services. In seminary I found Christmas Eve services (which range from noon-11 p.m. in different churches, and frequently there is more than one) were a mainline Protestant phenomenon. Midnight mass and Christmas day are observed by Catholics. Many African-American churches have an 8:00 a.m. Christmas Day service, then they often go out to do a mission project, and only when they get home in the afternoon does the family open presents. I learned in Nicaragua the custom is to only give a small gift on Christmas Day and the big gift giving day is Epiphany which is not even observed in many Protestant churches in the US.
I believe in all of this we learn from one another. God made us different and just as we receive different gifts on Christmas, I believe God’s people, near and far, find different ways to offer up thanks.
However you celebrate Christmas, I hope it is a blessed one and that worship is a key part of it.
All the best & Merry Christmas,