Written By Lee Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese
My all-time favorite occasion is Christmas. Why, you may ask? Well, which other occasion can match up to the myriad of activities?
There are heartwarming stage plays of the Christmas story at church, fun Christmas parties and gatherings with friends and family, soulful Christmas concerts, sumptuous Christmas dinners—the list goes on. I absolutely love the celebrative mood of the season and harbor hopes of having a white Christmas someday—imagine a snow capped backdrop with warm festive lights and the chorus of carols in the background. Just thinking about this makes me bubble over with joy!
But I eventually came to realize: I was so caught up with the sentiment of Christmas that I never really gave much thought to how I could make the time meaningful.
Having grown up in church, there were always plenty of opportunities to serve during Christmas. Deep down, I knew all the right reasons for why I should be involved but the constant thought of ‘Christmas is meant to be happily enjoyed!’ was hard to brush aside. I was worried that I would be too exhausted if I said ‘Yes’ and feared missing out on all the fun Christmas parties with my friends. It didn’t matter if it was sharing the Christmas story through stage plays or Christmas choirs or the giving out of gospel tracts—they were all politely turned down. I would tell myself: as long as I take time to remember Jesus and what He has done for me, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
I would come to discover that these were all silly excuses and that I had my focus on the wrong person: myself instead of Christ. My desire to enjoy the spirit of Christmas overpowered my desire to serve the One who came to humbly serve us.
It was in my third year of university that my perspective on Christmas changed entirely. It was a special Christmas that has left the deepest impression on my heart.
I remember joining the choir at church due to the persistent encouragement of a friend. Interestingly enough, that was the year when the church decided to organize a large scale Christmas stage play (it was going to be held in a venue that could house thousands of people!). Hence, every single choir member was mobilized to be a part of this huge production and you had no excuse not to join (unless you had a really special reason). At the start, things turned out exactly as I expected: sheer exhaustion. I had to memorize a number of new songs, attend countless practices and rehearsals at church and to top it all off, deal with my jumpy nerves. It was clear to me that I was doing all this for God, yet I still felt disgruntled that I was seemingly ‘sacrificing’ so much time for this. Many a time, I contemplated just throwing in the towel. This constant grumbling continued in my heart, but sheer embarrassment prevented me from giving up.
Before I knew it, the day of the performance arrived.
I vividly remember standing in the second row, being close enough to the audience to clearly see the varied expressions on their faces. A few impatient faces caught my eye—they belonged to a group of local students who were sitting upfront and seemed indifferent towards all that was going on around them (their phones took all the attention). I was affected by their lack of interest and assumed that they would just maintain this attitude from the start to the end of the program.
However, I was caught by surprise as I witnessed a gradual change in their attitude as the program progressed: they were giving their fullest attention during the choir performance! I almost fell off my feet when they actually responded to the pastor’s call to prayer. I noticed at this time too that many in the audience were responding in their own ways—some were swaying along to the carols, some were crying silently, some clapping along and others praying with their heads bowed etc. It all moved me deeply.
I’m so thankful to God for this experience of serving Him at Christmas that led me to discover anew the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not just about my good feelings or nice fantasies of Christmas but a time to truly contemplate the implications of my Savior coming to be among us and the work that He came to do. He came to serve and not to be served—our Servant King! Let’s walk in His footsteps and make Christmas not just a time of festive celebration but more so – the best time for us to share the good news of the Christmas Story with those who have yet to know Him, and as a time to love and serve others around us.
“He has caused His wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.” –Psalms 111:4