Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas, Christ and Living in the Muslim World

With just about two weeks until Christmas, we are being forced to take a second look at some of our Christmas traditions. While lots of effort goes into making expatriates feel at home here during the "magical season" (as one local store has decided to market it), it still isn't quite right.

Some of the things that I always associate with Christmas are missing. Driving through town looking at the brightly decorated houses with the Chipmunks Christmas album playing in the background. Christmas cookie exchanges. Christmas trees everywhere from large malls to small gas stations. Radios playing non-stop holiday music. People wishing each other "Merry Christmas," or at the least "Happy Holidays." But while I was missing all of that, I realized something.

None of it has anything to do with what Christmas is really all about.

There were no brightly decorated houses the night Christ was born. In fact, there wasn't even a home that would welcome Him. His birthplace was a stable, home to oxen, cattle, or donkeys. It was probably cold, smelly and damp.

There was no music. Mary was forced to deliver her first-born Son in the silence and alone. She was a young girl, without her mother or other family to be with her in this very frightening and amazing time in a woman's life.

Christmas cookies? I'd wager that there weren't any on the menu for Joseph and Mary that night. They probably hated to part with the little money they had just to buy some bread and dates. There would be no turkey or ham, no family recipe stuffing (which calls for sausage and as such would not be happening in Doha this year!!), no pies, no green bean casserole. Just a simple meal to give them the basic sustenance they needed.

As for holiday greetings, that was far from what Joseph and Mary received. They had the door closed in their face time and time again, probably without much compassion. After all, the town was full and bustling that night due to the census Caesar had commanded. People would much rather open their doors to those who could afford to pay and pay well. A poor couple expecting a baby didn't find any smiling faces.

And so our Christmas here may be more sober than usual. Some of the cultural trappings may be missing. But maybe, just maybe, we'll get a truer picture of what that first Christmas was really like.


Mylinda said...

Awesome! No, I mean awe-some to be able to experience Christmas this way. :-)

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said for a simpler Christmas that helps you to focus on Christ and not all the commercial trappings.

stacey said...

being there has no doubt enlightened you even more to the "simple life". and though some days are hard, i bet it is all good in the end.

Mike said...

Great stuff, Lori! Thanks for this. By the way, Katherine's stuffing has sausage in it too... Preaching on Luke 1:47-55 this Sunday and will think of you and Ibrahim as you and the children experience a Christmas in which you discover that 'he has filled the hungry with good things...'

give your husband (my sort-of brother) a hug for me.


mike khandjian

Nancy M. said...

Wonderful post! Helps remind us all what Christmas is about.


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