By Joel A. Hess –
In the 1980s, some well-intentioned, rich entertainers wrote the Christmas song “Do they know it’s Christmas” to raise money to help those suffering from hunger in East Africa. I was going through my 80s English phase and loved the song and the singers. I mean come on, it was written by Bob Geldolf from Boomtown Rats fame. And it was far better than its American copycat tune, “We are the world.”
While I still love the melody, the words have become incredibly inane over the years. Or maybe I just grew up though the songwriters did not. The premise of the lyrics is that all of Africa must not know it’s Christmas because there isn’t any snow, let alone rain or rivers. First of all, Africa is big. Secondly, the area that suffered the famine never had snow. Finally, since many Africans are Christian, there’s a good chance they know it’s Christmas. They also are smart of enough to know that you don’t need snow, rivers, or whatever to have Christmas. All you need is Christ!
But I suppose I can sound just as dumb when I sing the blues on Christmas! My wife made us use a fake Christmas tree this year. “This isn’t Christmas,” I protested. A couple of my good friends won’t be around to party with over the holidays, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas,” I moan. It seems like everyone is sick at my church. In fact, yesterday a great patriarch of the church died, and I have to sit with a mourning family around a Christmas tree. I spent some time with a man whose family left him all alone in the nursing home, no decorations or cards, just a blank room with Maury Povich playing on the TV for background noise. Do they know it’s Christmas?
What sort of requirements do you have for Christmas to be Christmas?
Imagine the first Christmas party. Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, family members, and Jesus. Later on, the magi came by to visit. It wasn’t some cute nostalgic scene. There was nothing romantic about it. There was no snow! Everyone there had sordid tales of sin and death. They had troubles and trials behind them or ahead of them.
But it was Christmas. Plopped right down in the center was Christ. Therefore, it was Christmas.
Because Christmas is wherever Christ is. Wherever Christ is, it’s impossible for it not to be Christmas! For only with Him come the gifts of Christmas: forgiveness and eternal life, peace and hope. He didn’t come to perfectly happy families where nothing ever goes wrong. He came bring life to deserts, water from rocks, joy to mourners.
Wherever Christ is, there is Christmas. Wherever a Christian tells someone alone and ashamed that they are forgiven, there is Christmas. Wherever a brother in Christ holds the hand of the dying and gives them the body and blood of Christ, there is Christmas. This can happen everywhere and anywhere and anytime! Wherever Christ is doing His thing, that is, His Church is doing His thing, there is Christmas in all of its splendor and glory!
So yes, many in Africa do know its Christmas. But not because there is snow or even food, but because there is Jesus.
Christmas is wherever Jesus is.