Where Is the Baby?


Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

In response to the recent ‘fatwa’ passed by Majelis Ulama Indonesia which rules Christmas attributes as unlawful in Islam in Indonesia, many have voiced their disagreement. But some have taken the opportunity to point out that these attributes – mainly the Santa and the Christmas trees, were never about the REAL Christmas to begin with. The latter, of course, are Christians.

They are right to a certain point; Christmas is about God sending His only Son as a baby to gift the sinful world with the salvation from His just wrath. No Santa, no heavily decorated and lighted pine trees at the night the Baby was born.

Yet, allow me to persuade, let us not only stop at declaring these attributes as the result of commercialized capitalism which exploits the real Christmas, or banishing such decorations from our homes, or taking them out from the kids’ books, or sarcastically thanking the hardliners for getting rid of a tradition and culture certain group of Christians is sick with.

Take advantage of it.

The tradition may have wandered far from its original message, let us trace it back and put it back where it should stand. That by doing so, we can tell the curious kid, or the answer seeking friend, about what drove Saint Nicholas to go around encouraging the poor children of his time with his generous gifts, and thus point them to the mercy and kindness of a God who gifted the poor souls with His beloved Son. Or about how people in the North are joyfully decorating the evergreen – the trees that stay green during the cold winter of Christmas, in anticipation of celebrating the most wonderful birthday the world has ever witnessed, and thus point them to the birth of Jesus the Undying Life.

The 25th of December is not even the definite date of the birth of Jesus. No one knows the definite date at the present. Yet man uses dates, symbols, tangible and visible things to remind themselves again and again of things that are important, and to preserve them from generation to generation.

Just as the banquet, the dresses and tuxes, the flowers, the rings, and even the vow are not the essence of the wedding, and yet every wedded couple in their respective means enrich their celebration and affirm the specialness of their union with those attributes and symbols; likewise, Christmas too, in all its richness and specialness, has inspired cultures in their expressions of celebration.

Instead of stripping Christmas off its festive association, we shall do better by tracing how the silver thread may lead us back to the manger.

There, we shall still find the Baby.

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