A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's Deck the Halls!-- in February...

... that's what Ike Brannon and Tristan Brady suggest, and for a reason in keeping with the original date of the celebration itself-- mission.

They note that the current date on which we celebrate Christmas (December 25) was chosen simply to "co-opt the pagan Europeans" for whom the Winter Solstice was a high holy day. By celebrating the birth of the Son of God on the same day in which pagans observed the birth of the sun, an opportunity for evangelism was... pardon the pun... born. And moving the date would do no harm to what we have in the biblical record since no specific date for Jesus' birth is given. Some scholars have even suggested that from what we read in the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, Jesus may have been born in early spring.

But why should we move the yuletide celebration to early February? Well, it's all very simple-- the Chinese New Year is in February.

China has over 1.3 billion people, a tiny fraction of whom are Christians; and yet China has the most evangelists of any country in the world. Even though the government there oppresses the church, millions are joining the church none-the-less despite government hostility. China is ripe for revival.

Thus, Brannon and Brady suggest that as in the fourth century, the church has an opportunity to co-opt a pagan holiday for the purposes of the gospel in the world, since the Chinese New Year has much in common with Christmas: In the New Year, the Chinese exchange gifts, families gather together from afar to celebrate, and a central theme of the Chinese New Year is to be reconciled with family members and friends who have been estranged. It is time to wish peace and happiness and to let go of grudges. The Chinese New Year thus becomes a great time to celebrate the birth of the One who reconciles all things.

Moreover, the writers suggest that for those who moan and complain every year that the "reason for the season" is being forgotten, and that the media each year does its best to promote the secular aspects of Christmas as just another "holiday", by moving the celebration to February for specifically Christian and missional reasons, the celebration of Christmas will remain specifically Christ-centered. And for those who worry that elements of pagan Chinese practice will be incorporated into the Christmas celebration, we already have long established pagan symbols and practices in our current holiday. The Christmas tree has its roots in paganism.

Now, is there even a snowball's chance in a yuletide fire that Christmas will be moved to February? Of course not, for so many reasons, one could write a series of blog posts. But Brannon and Brady are to be commended for putting before us a reminder that the church's central task is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and that frankly, we should do whatever it takes to fulfill that charge we have received by Jesus himself.

But wouldn't it be interesting if a rather strong movement from within the church would rise to ask the church to consider this for the sake of the Chinese people? Wouldn't it be rather fun to watch the journalists in particular try to make sense of this movement? --The talking heads interviewing "the experts" attempting to understand these strange Christians who want to ruin everyone's holiday?-- The commentators attempting to put two and two together and coming up with seventeen? Wouldn't it be fun to watch their befuddlement?

As the church what are we willing to do to make disciples of Jesus Christ? Are we willing to do whatever it takes? From what I've seen of late in the church in America, I highly doubt it. But it would be interesting to see how far a "celebrate Christmas in February" movement would get if someone attempted to organize it?

While I refuse to protest with the Tea Party or the Occupy Wall Street crowd, a February Christmas movement for the sake of mission in China just might convince me to pull out the old picket sign.

After all, that seems like a cause worth promoting.


John Meunier said...

How about we move Christmas to July 4?

Anonymous said...

Great, Allan! I found myself reading through this thinking, 'Yeah, this makes sense!'

Allan R. Bevere said...

John, for what purpose?

John Meunier said...

To compete with one of the biggest rivalries the church faces.