Of all the Christian festivals, the favorite is Christmas. Its appeal is universal. Christian communities everywhere want to celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth, and they have found many ways to do it. Ask a hundred Christians from a hundred countries how the day is observed and you will get a hundred different answers. In some places there are elaborate celebrations, while in others the observance is simple.

There have been times in church history when ecclesiastical authorities tried to suppress all festivities related to the Nativity. While the attempts had little long-term effect, those officials must be given credit for trying to stamp out practices that were essentially pagan, not Christian. We would do well to take a fresh look at how Christians celebrate, not in order to restrict the observance but to enhance it by emphasizing practices that are universal.

Our Christmas will be truly Christian and authentic if its principal activities are those that fellow believers everywhere can share. What can the proverbial pygmy in Africa (who has heard of Christ and trusted him) do to celebrate the Incarnation? What can the imprisoned believer in a Marxist society do? How can a poor young student, or an invalid in a nursing home, or a sharecropper celebrate? What can they all share? Not tinseled trees and fireworks, nor plum pudding and sleigh rides.

There is a resurgence of interest in a simple life-style within the Christian community, and the observance of Christmas is a good place to demonstrate this interest. The greatest gifts do not come from the shelves of any store, after all. The most profound expressions of joy are the simplest. Every Christian everywhere should celebrate the birth of the Saviour. But let the ...

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