There is something about Christmas. No where in the course of History has a particular holiday been celebrated on such a massive world-wide scale and with such gusto.
Japan for one, is obsessed with Christmas, and goes through intensive preparation to illuminate her boulevards with lighting, snowmen, and Santa Clauses, which results in illuminated installations that are nothing short of spectacular. The Tokyo Sky Tree and its entire vicinity are made awash in landscapes of sparkling lights of meticulous planning. Awe-inspiring in a technicolour manner, but no sign of Jesus and the Holy Family, except in the quiet nooks and crannies of Catholic Churches hidden in silent alleys and streets. Christmas, as made testament to by the dour and spartan faces that fill the trains heading back to work the next day, is like any other bank holiday. An excuse to indulge in hedonistic feasting and drinking.
Singapore’s Orchard belt also spares no expense in decking its malls and trees with baubles and lighting effects. This year, the decoration is Disney-themed and the lights are shaped in cute Mickey Mouse heads. Every shop tries to cash in on the festive bandwagon with the staff donning Santa hats, and by selling seasonal products sold by the hamper. It is possible to encounter beauty (the worldly kind) and come forth empty. Commercialism is rampant, with supermarkets playing Christmas carols up to the 25th and playing Chinese New Year songs on the 26th. The saving grace to all this, is that Tangs never fails to centre its Christmas décor around a Scriptural verse.
Christmas can be a very stressful time for many people – as they stress over what to prepare for Christmas dinner, or rush from place to place in an attempt to make some headway with the crowds who are like them, are all doing last-minute Christmas shopping.
Tensions are high and frazzled, as people meet relatives and catch-up with long-lost classmates. Instead of welcome and love, many encounter snarky remarks and insult during this time. The defences are up on red-alert and the knives have been sharpened to inflict the most damage.
It is also, while it should not be the case, for some, a time of melancholy, desolation, and loneliness. There are multitudes who despair at the thought of returning to their offices the next day, while others deal with crushing loneliness, and try all sorts of means, but turn to God, to fill any emptiness within.
In Melbourne, for example, a cosmopolitan city, it is common to find the homeless lying besides piles of used needles, and packets of contraband at the road junctions. Some Church organisations have tried to reach out with the setting up of mobile soup kitchens to help combat hunger and the cold with the distribution of bread and soup, but the numbers are many and help is few and between.
So the question is, where is Jesus in all of these?
While Christ came quietly that night in Bethlehem, it is our duty as Christians to proclaim aloud the hope and the true light that He gives and brings. Or have we forgotten about Him?
By Brian Bartholomew Tan