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Daniel Epp

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What is Christmas about?


I always thought that Christmas was about me, myself, and my family. And of course no one should be expected to work on Christmas day. Not long after that I realized that my mom had to work on Christmas day, I mean someone had to make the cinnamon buns, chicken dinner, mashed potatoes and do the dishes. Granted I was less than 10 years old at that time, but Christmas was a pretty simple affair: presents, good food, no work, and fun with the family.

Now 20 years on, and studying Bahasa Indonesia while living in Indonesia, Christmas for me has changed. It's not only because I have three kids who think just like I did and expect Lisa and I to do all the work; it's not only that I now think more about the real meaning of Christmas; and it's not only that I'm physically across the world from anywhere I used to celebrate the holiday. I think the biggest difference to me is that my Christmas now isn't for me, it's for others: others around me.

Instead of the focus of my Christmas day being relaxing, enjoyable and family-only, I've realized it's a day to share with others. Christ came to serve others, not hide away; his birth (as well as his whole life) was shared with all sorts of strangers, not just his family; and his death and resurrection are for all people, not just his neighbourhood.

I can't compete at all in serving like Christ. But this year being in Indonesia our Christmas was more outward-focused than ever before. It started with joining a Christian service in downtown Salatiga with thousands of fellow believers, at 4 AM! We also invited a single friend of ours with no family around who shared Christmas Eve and morning with us. In the afternoon we went to a friends house to celebrate with his extended family and share a meal, followed by heading to a Christmas party of our house-helper's church. 

Christmas day was busier than any I had ever experienced, but the goal was to relate to friends and the community here and not to shut the world out of our day. It was also the culmination of our Christmas activities which included having 60 neighbours over for a Christmas meal, our house helpers' families over for a Christmas meal, and preparing special gifts for several close friends.

None of this is extraordinary, none of this is deserving of praise, and none of it was extremely difficult. However I found it challenged my normal Christmas routine, and I believe, for the good. 

But this doesn't mean I'll wake my kids up at 3 AM every Christmas morning... :)

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