In the final part of our series, Liz Burns in Tanzania and D & L in East Asia share what they are doing on Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Follow the links for part one, part two and part three of our Christmas series. Merry Christmas!
Christmas Day in a Tanzanian village—Liz Burns
Here in Tanzania, Christmas Day is a public holiday and Christians, who are a large proportion of the population, go to church. Anyone who can afford to will have a new outfit for the day and families who have a little extra money might have a meal that includes meat. Where possible, the church service is a communion service and ministers are very busy during the week trying to get to every church in their parish. Some churches will hold an all-night event on Christmas Eve and the Jesus Film is always in demand on these occasions. Christmas carols are really only sung the week of Christmas, if at all. There is no exchange of gifts as there is little money to do this. This week of the year also often sees many baptisms as families combine their Christmas and baptism celebrations on one day.
Locals often ask what we do in Australia on Christmas Day. They are bewildered by the idea of presents, but understand the desire for family to get together and celebrate. When possible whilst in Tanzania, I have celebrated Christmas out in a village sharing the ministry with the parish priest and the congregation, who like visitors on the day. We look at the birth narrative and consider the child who was born to fulfil so many promises and to become the Saviour of the world.
Christmas without distractions in East Asia—D & L
There are no Christmas holidays for people in much of East Asia. Work and school continue as normal. In the city where we live, there is little acknowledgement of it being a special day other than the token tacky displays of tinsel and Santa Claus. It is seen as a secular Western celebration with no understanding of whose birth is celebrated and why, though some young adults see it as a romantic day and will take their partner into town for a special meal together.
Living in a city without the trappings of external distractions, and without the busyness and pressure of presents and end-of-year parties, we quite appreciate being less rushed and less exhausted in celebrating the ‘good news of great joy’. It is a hard time to be away from family gatherings in Australia, but we delight in the privilege of sharing in celebrations with our brothers and sisters here. Every year, there is an extended time together where individuals or groups sing or share. It is packed with people bringing family and friends. There is a clear presentation of the ‘good news’ and it is such a thrill to witness a good number of people each year responding positively to the message.
Why not send a Christmas message to your link missionary to let them know that you’re thinking of them and praying for them, even while they are far away on location. Make sure to follow their communication guidelines if you’re messaging missionaries in sensitive locations.