We all have our biases, usually due to personal life circumstances, that subtly make our way into how we view God (our theology) and our fellow man (anthropology). Some of our distinctions may go unnoticed until our lives intersect deeply with another’s (like marriage), and they come out most distinctly at key times of the year, like Christmas! I could tell stories of learning the stark contrasts to holiday celebration by my in-laws, but I won’t! What I could share are some glimpses from my own life that could maybe help those who wonder, “Why does Pastor do things that way?” (or think that way).
First of all, I may need to say, (as I’ve been told) that MK’s (missionary kids) or TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) view life a little different than most. We are called “Third Culture” because we may have lived in two different cultures (such as in Japan & the US), but have never fully adhered to either one, but rather have a mishmash hybrid of both. To the degree that we’re in-between, we may not be or feel fully accepted by or feel “at home” in either one. Perhaps an example of this is spending a good portion of my childhood in Japan, so that I’m most knowledgeable of the Japanese culture, and being able to speak with a near-perfect Japanese accent, but being called “foreigner” by the Japanese kids on a regular basis because I don’t look like them! When I would come back to the States for one year out of four, though I would look like most Americans around me, it wouldn’t be long before I would feel out of place, like a foreigner in their midst. So although I can’t fully explain it, at least as a college student, I would feel most “at home” with other “TCK’s”, based on the commonality of our differences!
One of our discussions we’ve struggled through is on the concept of “home”, and for many who have traveled the globe, but rarely had a place to settle down for more than 3-4 years at a time, many would conclude that heaven was the only place they could really call “home”. Another common trait of MK’s and TCK’s is that we often have the tendency of going “too deep too soon” in our conversations (or at least as viewed by those outside of our group). Can you tell?? Conversations about the weather, or TV shows, etc., often bore us, even though we may hide it well. Anyways, now that I’ve lived in the States long enough to “shoot the breeze” like the rest of them, it may go unnoticed. But on to Christmas:
The most vivid memories I have of Christmas is of setting up our “church”, which was a one-room abacus school, to make it ready for ministry and worship. Christmas was a key time for reaching the Japanese with the Gospel, as many of them would come at no other time. We would hand out tracts and flyers at the nearby train station on the weeks leading up to Christmas. We would prepare music and decorations to put up around the church. My sister and I would put up the 3 to 4 foot artificial tree, decorate it, and put it on a pedestal so that it would look bigger! One of my jobs was to fill up the kerosene heater and bring it into the center of the room, and turn it on to heat our cold surroundings. We would always sing “Kiyoshi Konoyoru” (Silent Night, Holy Night), as it was known by many Japanese. Dad would always preach, and we would usually have one special element to attract new people year after year. In other words, Christmas was for ministry! We did have a family celebration, but for us, the force and main effort and majority of time spent in the advent of Christmas was in sharing the good news of it to others! Many of the other common Christmas “traditions” never really appealed to me.
Maybe this is why the story of the angel’s message to the shepherds in Luke 2 also hits “home” for me! To the “homeless” outsiders of that day in Israel, (and perhaps those with the most time to listen!) God brings “good news of great joy, that will be for ALL the people!” (Luke 2:10-11) “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ, the Lord”. They are then surrounded by a heavenly army of angels, glorifying God, and when the shepherds found the Savior, in the form of a baby, they became the messengers for the rest, spreading the news in that region! (2:16-20)
Speaking of messengers, here is another passage that resonates with me as a “Third Culture Kid”, from the Apostle Paul, a Jew, who was a Roman citizen, born in a Greek city. He said, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
There is a way to grasp a deeper significance to Christmas every year, and it begins by “listening to the shepherds”! Maybe they seem strange, and even smelly, but considering their message may be the very thing to instill the proper fear and awe that so many are missing! Let’s slow down, and take the time to listen. Listen to your spouse’s views on the advent of Christmas! Truly understanding each other requires the unselfish patience to spend time being a student of the other person. You may then, in turn, have a message that brings a similar response to Luke 2:18, “and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” We have a message worth sharing!