Earlier this month, The Economist published an interesting look at the popularity of Christmas in China, a country that is officially atheist, and makes no room for any official celebration of the holiday.
Cities across China blink with fairy lights, fancy hotels flaunt trees and tinsel, and glossy magazine covers display festive recipes and table settings. "Joy up!" reads a sign (in English) on three illuminated trees by a shopping mall in Beijing. The Chinese are doing just that.
In the first decades of Communist rule in China Christianity was banned, along with other religions. Now there are tens of millions of Christians in China and faiths of all kinds are blossoming. But this has little to do with the country's fast-growing fascination with Christmas. In the West the holiday is a commercialised legacy of Christian culture; in China it is almost entirely a product of Mammon. Father Christmas is better known to most than Jesus.
Churches in China (both registered and unregistered) are taking advantage of the popularity of Christmas to teach people about the true meaning of the festival.
The Gospel Times recently reported on a sermon given by a pastor at Gangwashi Christian Church in Beijing, contemplating the best way to prepare for Christmas. The title of the sermon was "Christmas is Coming; How Should We Prepare."
We translated the article and posted it this week on Chinese Church Voices:
Christmas Eve is the busiest time in the church because we are preparing for Christmas. But do we really know what the Lord Jesus desires us to prepare for? During the November 30 Sunday worship service at Gangwashi Church in Beijing, Preacher Sun Naimu pointed out that in contrast to external decorations, Jesus desires more that we prepare our hearts to repent and receive the Savior. Preacher Sun pointed out that Christmas is approaching and that this time is also known as Advent. The church choir has begun rehearsals for the Christmas program. Brothers and sisters who participate in the services are also very busy. Yet, Jesus Christ doesn't want us to just prepare outward adornments; he invites us to prepare our hearts. For the true believer, Christmas is not a party, nor is it just a celebration of the birthday of Jesus. We celebrate Christmas in order to prepare our own hearts to welcome the Savior to enter us and to receive the salvation he accomplished for us and which gives us true joy.
How do we prepare to welcome the Lord Jesus? Preacher Sun shared that at the time of Jesus Christ's birth, many people made good preparations, and these are a testimony to us: the wise men used gold, frankincense, and myrrh to welcome the newborn king at his birth; Simeon and Anna the Prophetess also give us beautiful examples of preparation; another one is John the Baptist, who received Jesus' high praise: "among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."
If you aren't subscribed to Chinese Church Voices, I'd recommend clicking on over to read the entire post.
And on behalf of ChinaSource, allow me to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
Photo Credit: Christmas in Zhangmutou town China by Chris, on Flickr
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio