Today was my first Christmas in America. And I liked it.
It is true that Christmas is very big and important for the American economy and therefore the global economy. People shop till they drop dead and they are encouraged to indulge in unbridled consumerism at every turn.
Some Americans are so secularized that they will frown if you wish them ‘Merry Christmas’. ‘Happy Holidays’ is what a lot of people prefer. So I have had to be careful and cautious about wishing people.
In the world outside the church, there is no mention of the fact that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Nobody pretends it is. I will not be surprised if kids in future think of Christmas as a birthday celebration for Santa Claus!
However, amidst all this, the church continues to keeps its focus. Christmas here is seen as a golden opportunity to reach out to unbelievers. Believers are encouraged to bring their unbeliever friends and relatives to the service. The message is entirely oriented towards the gospel message and often it ends in an alter call.
Popular Christmas choruses are sung so that even non-believers can join in and feel part of the service. Many pastors think of the Christmas message as the most important message they deliver in a calendar year and therefore prepare long and hard.
The general feeling is that people are much more receptive to the gospel message during this time of the year, than at other times.
In fact, in some churches, regular churchgoers are requested NOT to attend the Christmas service so that there will be enough room to accommodate unbelievers. A church near my house had 13 services for Christmas, all targeted at unbelievers.
Isn’t that great!