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Cross-Cultural Christmas

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An update with some thoughts on celebrating Christmas cross-culturally, from John and Cecelia * who are RMM workers living and teaching in the Middle East.

Dear Friends,

There are so many things we could say to you during the time when Christians celebrate the coming of Jesus to earth. Probably few would argue for the exact date of Dec. 25 (or Jan. 6, for others), but we do lay stake to the right to celebrate and winter seems as good a time as any. We have a unique perspective, after spending 13 years away from our home culture and the cultural Christmas traditions. Do we miss those things? Yes, often very much. Do we feel relief from not being surrounded by those same things for a whole month or longer? Yes, often very much. Mostly, we've come to love and value (and deeply miss) our family and church family during this time. We are also acutely aware that Christians often get Christmas wrong. We get immersed in the decorations and giving and eating and celebrating (all good things!) to the point that we miss the point. Following is a worthwhile excerpt from the blog of Dr. Christena Cleveland, social psychologist and author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart:

Our Christmas celebrations often turn us culturally-inward. We focus on our biological/cultural families, our traditions, and exchanging gifts with those inside our social circles. These things are great! But if we truly want to commemorate the Incarnation, we must turn culturally-outward. We must follow our great High Mentor – and leave our cultural enclaves in order to inhabit each other’s stories this Christmas. Christmas is cross-cultural because the Incarnation is cross-cultural.

Christmas is about giving sacrificial gifts of our cultural preferences, our power, and our resources.

Christmas is about exiting our cultural comfort zones and connecting with people whose stories and problems are nothing like our own.

Christmas is about participating in a Christmas celebration outside of my cultural comfort zone.

Christmas is about spending time with people on their terms, in their homes, within their congregations and on their turf.

Christmas is about making (and keeping!) a New Year’s resolution to learn how my church, school or business is participating in unjust power structures.

Christmas is about engaging in cross-cultural relationships so that we can follow Jesus’ example of understanding each other’s perspectives, trials, temptations, fears and joys.

Christmas is cross-cultural.**

This is beauty in skin. This is truth and life that we can delve into and truly celebrate. Our Christmas will consist of only a small Christmas Eve party we are hosting for a few friends. We will listen to music and light some candles and eat some goodies and hopefully talk about what Christmas means. We live in a land where Christmas is not celebrated except in a handful of churches. An Orthodox friend has invited Cecelia to attend their Christmas service, and hopefully that will happen. Can we still have joy without the trappings? Can we still celebrate the coming of Jesus to earth? No question about it. Good news should be good news for everyone not just the insider. Joy to the WORLD!! Let's proclaim it!

Our lives seem to be in a routine of too much work and trying to catch up on Sunday, our day off. We squeeze in time with friends and sharing our lives. We've recruited a young lady to work in Cecilia's language school, so hopefully that will mean some relief. This fall, one of the believers from our old neighborhood in Central Asia came to a city nearby to find work to support her family. We haven't been able to see her yet, but we've been able to send her a few care packages and a Bible and to support her in a lonely setting.

We're really looking forward to having some family members join us here this spring. And we have a new little granddaughter (coming in February) to look forward to meeting! We appreciate all your prayers and expressions of love!! There are many things to be grateful for. May the incarnation of Jesus move you to incarnate in your surroundings this year!

*Names changed for security reasons

**Reposted from http://www.christenacleveland.com/2013/12/christmas-is-cross-cultural/ with permission from the author