Somewhere in the mid of December I came across a powerful post on social media from a friend in USA about the importance of retaining the true essence of Christmas and not losing ourselves in traditions, party hopping, food and drink, music, gifts and cards, and meaningless merry making. While there may be nothing wrong in these activities in moderation, what often gets side lined is deliberate reflection on God, individually and as a family. The thought managed to influence my own Christmas celebrations this year which was low key and from the confines of my home keeping in sync with the rising COVID-19 and Omicron cases in Karnataka but it was the most special and meaningful Christmas nevertheless!
With the help of the same friend, I could consolidate relevant Bible verses and stories that I would read on Christmas eve during the family worship time which would be followed by a prayer. I was nervous at first pondering about a situation where I am unable to answer a question or my own understanding was faulty. More than the embarrassment, the possibility of misguiding someone else was daunting. Instead of fretting over the decorations or what we would eat, I spent more time in reading, cross-checking, taking print outs, getting our Bibles out for reference taking and structuring my little talk. Till the morning of Christmas eve, my home may not have been decorated but I felt content and happy because I had focussed “where it matters more”.
During the course of our family worship on Christmas eve we discussed the reason why God sent his only son Jesus on earth, the life that Jesus led on earth teaching the power of love, forgiveness, doing good and most of all demonstrating how it was possible for a human being to remain loyal to God and steadfast in their faith in the most trying circumstances, the provision that Jesus’s life on earth offers to mankind, and understanding why Christmas is important.
There was yet another “first”; we attended the midnight mass on 24th December, online, for the first time on Everyday Church Online, a UK based worship platform which offers brilliant services suiting different time zones across the world, prayers, hymns and carols with diversity and inclusion as its core principle.
Christmas is the only festival we celebrate at home so we try to make it special every year. With each passing year my teenager daughter is taking on a larger role in the preparations and increasingly understanding the spiritual aspect of Christmas which in itself is a source of joy to me. I am a baptised Christian and hope one day soon she shall be too. I tell my daughter not to be afraid to pray or worship God if she doesn’t know everything about Him because prayer is the beginning to know Him better. Many Theologist friends or seasoned Christian elders often confide that they are still learning.
During the midnight mass on Christmas eve both of us were moved to tears listening to the sermon on “the baby which changed lives not only of its parents and nation but the entire mankind”. And I thought that if a person’s heart thaws to stories of God nothing is lost, not to an extent that it cannot be brought back, and one can and one should return to God if they have wandered far away. We all become weak in our spiritual duty and role at one time or the other in the course of our lives as it happened to me in the last thirteen years where I was struggling in a new city, with new people, larger than life challenges and wading through professional experiences. With God, patience is abundant and He is always waiting for us to return to him giving us ample opportunities so make sure you do by taking baby steps. There can be no better time than Christmas to return to God because Christmas is for the (spiritually) strong and the weak- alike.
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This piece was originally published in a weekly column on one of the leading English dailies in Manipur (India), The People's Chronicle on 3rd January 2022. If you wish to discuss about your Christmas, you can reach me at [email protected]