For the last several weeks here in Brazil Christmas fever has been burning intensely. Brazilians are beginning to rival Americans in turning the celebration of the birth of Christ into a materialistic frenzy. Yesterday and today the parking-lot of the nearby shopping mall has been packed, while Christmas programs on Brazilian TV talk about everything but the advent.
Today I actually heard a Portuguese version of “White Christmas”, the one song capable of making me feel homesick during this time. Thank you, Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby. By far the most popular song played down here this year has been a translation of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”. Of course, no mention of Christ in either of those songs.
As I perused some of my regular reads this morning, I was touched by Phil Johnson’s wish for a white Christmas for all over at Pyromaniacs, accompanied by a link to a snow-filled flikr slideshow. It took the edge of the 86 degree weather I am sitting in at the moment.
He also wished “retailers who avoid the word ‘Christmas’ in order to be ‘politically correct’: A Christmas in Iran. I find his wish to be quite appropriate, and the site he links to, jaw dropping.
Which brings me to a topic that has been on my mind this Christmas season. We stand aghast at the way the world celebrates Christmas, but are we much better? Yesterday I was invited to speak at the Christmas banquet of one of our sister churches here in the area. I chose as my text Philippians 2, which talks about the incarnation, and puts it into the context of service and obedience. I noted that modern Christianity’s celebration of Christmas is quite devoid of a focus on either.
According to the text, Christ made Himself in the form of a servant and was obedient even unto death.
Service to man, and obedience to God. This is the essence of missions. The way I see it, Christmas should be a time when we renew our own personal missionary zeal, and that of the church, based on the example provided for us by Christ in the incarnation.
Let us not throw out the Christmas tree, Jingle Bells, or mistletoe. Let us, however, focus on those things which are truly important, and for which this seasons provides us with a profound reminder.