Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It’s beginning to sound a lot like…

Unlike the great nation across the Pacific Ocean to the east, Singapore is mostly free from the “merry wars of Christmas”. There exists no other festival to compete for Christmas at this time of the year. The Moslem holiday of Eid al-Fitr (known as Hari Raya Puasa locally) and the Hindu festival of Deepavali have long passed. The next major holiday will be the Chinese New Year, but as its name implies, that is quite some time away.

Singapore does have the largest number of Jews in Southeast Asia (over 200), but they remain low-key most of the time. So inconspicuous are they that the vast majority of Singaporeans have no idea that they exist. Their celebration of Hanukkah is a quiet one.

Singapore is also free of secularists who wish to make this festive season as irrelgious as possible by removing all the references to the incarnation of Christ. So why have I lost my enthusiasm for Christmas this year?

Christmas used to be one of my favourite holidays when I was a child. It was a time of celebration, peace and goodwill among men. I grew to love the various symbols of Christmas – the tree, the lights, the nativity scene and even the fat old man who rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. When I was 12, my mother, in her Fundamentalist Christian fervour, threw out the Christmas tree (we had been using an artificial one) along with most of our Christmas decoration as they were “pagan traditions and had no place in a Christian festival”.

Ah, these fundamentalists – if only they knew the date for Christmas originally commemorated the birth of Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun” – one of the gods from the late Roman period.

What killed my enthusiasm for Christmas this year is probably the over-enthusiasm of others. My polytechnic – Republic – is awash with followers of Hope Church Singapore, one of the many non-denominational megachurches that one finds all around the city-state today. Their interpretation of Christmas is so horrendous I don’t even know where to begin.

From their advert for Christmas:
"A Series of X-XtRaOrdInarY Xmas Events": Who killed Santa?? Kopitiam ChrisTmas??? Shi zi Lu ko - Christmas style?? Join Us!

See what I mean?

Christmas is now dominated by money and greed at the expense of the holiday’s more important values, but it has not affected me as much as this warped celebration of a Christian festival. I have to admit, the colourful lights and decorations that now adorn Orchard Road are rather pretty. I would sooner celebrate the nativity of our Lord with the Mohammedans than these people who pervert the name of Christ. Have I given in to the Devil’s wiles by allowing my eagerness for Christmas to die so easily? Perhaps I have. Rather, I should endure all this mockery and proceed to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord with joy.

Christmas is not a secular holiday where people “traditionally” exchange presents and greetings. Christmas – a word derived from “Christ’s Mass” (Old English Cristes mæsse), a service celebrated in the Church of Rome marking the birth of Christ. The true meaning of Christmas is not, as many would claim, the time for giving; a time for peace, love and joy. The true meaning of Christmas is - as it always was - the celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God - He who took on flesh for our salvation.

From the liturgy of St. Basil the Great:
He lived in this world and gave us commandments of salvation; releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He brought us to knowledge of You the true God and Father. ...He gave Himself as a ransom to death, in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending through the cross into hell -- that He might fill all things with Himself -- He loosed the pangs of death. He arose on the third day, having made for all flesh a path to the Resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible for the Author of Life to be a victim of corruption.

This is why Christ was born – to free mankind from the chains of death.

Okay, rant over.

‘tis the season for forehead rug burns
fa la la la la, la la la la
To push away the plate to obtain what our heart yearns
fa la la la la, la la la la
To stare in awe at Christ Who joins our race
fa la la la la, la la la la
So that we like His mother, might one day touch His face
fa la la la la, la la la la

- from Gregory


Blogger Mimi said...

Wonderful post, thank you!

Thu Dec 15, 03:24:00 am 2005  

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