Forgotten Christmas


By Danny Yohannan

As 2020 finally comes to a close, many of us are looking forward with relief to celebrating the Christmas season. But in the mix of the lights and decorations, it can be all too easy to forget the whole point of what we are celebrating.

In one way, we are often in danger of entering into a forgotten Christmas. We go through the motions but forget the reason behind it all.

As Christians, it is vital for us to always connect our celebrations with the sacramental life that drives us to become more like Christ through our daily routines.

Look back over this past year. What comes to mind? Elections, lockdowns, global unrest. But what about the incarnation, the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ? All these seasons of the Church fit together in one story that we have the privilege of living out again and again throughout our journey. In the midst of everything else, have we forgotten them?

Christmas and Resurrection Sunday, Easter, are the bookends of our Christian year. They form the foundation for us as we journey together in our worship, which transforms us to become what God intended (2 Peter 1:4).

It is extremely easy, especially for those of us in the West, to find ourselves on a slippery slope of forgetting the meaning behind our practices and instead only focusing on the immediate excitement and emotion of the moment.

This is an incredibly dangerous path. Rather than being transformed to become more like Christ and continually remembering that we are witnesses of His birth, life, death, burial and resurrection, we become lukewarm and ineffective in the light of eternity.

If we are not deliberate, we will reduce this most precious time of the year—a season meant to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and deepen our longing for His anticipated return—to something meaningless, leaving ourselves empty and in need of yet another exciting event to fill us up.

Advent is more than just an annual birthday marker on a calendar. It’s a season of entering into the deep conviction that what we believe, practice and hold onto is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not only for us but for the entire world—and there are millions who have still never once heard His name.

I remember when I was younger, my father and I were traveling in a vehicle in South Asia on Christmas Day. As we drove along, we noticed a farmer plowing his field. My father asked the driver to stop, and he quickly got out to talk to the older gentleman. He asked him, “Why are you working on Christmas?” The man looked confused and replied, “What is a Christmas?”

This man had never heard of Christmas and what it was supposed to mean. More than that, he had never even heard of Christ once in his life! This may seem shocking, but it is the reality for millions of people around the world. While we sing songs and open gifts, multitudes still wait for someone to tell them about the hope of salvation.

The challenge for all of us is that we would never be satisfied with just the excitement of celebration. Rather, we must be deliberate in our own lives and in churches around the world to ask ourselves what will we do in response. How will this celebration cause us to live differently? What can we do with our time and our resources as a family and as a parish to bring more people to know about Christ and His kingdom?

At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, “Am I satisfied with my life in Christ, or am I driven to follow in His steps to give all in seeking and saving the lost?”

What I am most excited about during this Advent and Christmas season is being a part of Believers Eastern Church (BEC) and having the privilege of seeing so many transformed people who now have bright eyes and light hearts because they get to join us in celebrating this wonderful season of hope for the first time in their lives. 

Last year, in 2019, we were able to see more than 260,000 families helped through quality-of-life Christmas gifts distributed by our brothers and sisters on the mission field. I remember hearing about Pari, a 65-year-old widow who received a chicken as a result of the Christmas distribution program. Pari told our workers, “There is no one to take care of me at this old age. I am worried, thinking, What will happen if I die and no one will even know about it? Today, I saw your care, and I am happy for the chicken you gave me.” 

I want to challenge you to look around and see what you can do to invest your life in bringing hope and healing, especially during this Christmas season. Maybe that means partnering with BEC and GFA World to provide poverty-alleviating gifts to some of the most poor and needy in our generation. Maybe it’s getting involved with a local shelter and sharing about the hope you have. 

Whatever it might be for you, let us make the commitment to no longer participate in a Forgotten Christmas. This year, let’s celebrate by bringing the gift of life to those who still long and wait.

The Rt. Rev. Danny Yohannan is a Bishop of Believers Eastern Church, he lives in Texas.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.