It’s a bright starry night and three bearded men, dressed in long flowing robes, arrive on camels from the desert to the East, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
It’s a different scene when you look in the windows of shops around the world. The modern Christmas image includes soft snowflakes falling onto houses glowing with hundreds of coloured lights, or sometimes, mantels of heavy snow, icicles, and snowmen. Santa is dressed in heavy warm boots and a red woolen jacket, smiling behind a full thick white beard and flying through the starry night behind a team of reindeer, his sled laden with boxes of gifts.
Here in the Cook Islands we pride ourselves on our observance of Christianity. So why, in our Christmas displays, do we see reindeer and snow scenes, instead of being more closely aligned with that simple manger scene. Why are we fixated on the snowy white Christmas with lots of gifts? How too, do we find ourselves viewing the wise men who came from what is now known as Iraq and Iran, as so vastly different now, from when they brought the first gifts to baby Jesus?
I have travelled the world of churches, from England’s Anglican churches, to Europe’s Protestant buildings, the Catholic cathedrals of France and Spain and St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I’ve attended the Orthodox churches of Greece, and Russia, the mosques of Istanbul in Turkey, and a Jewish synagogue.
Amidst the grandeur of the vast cathedrals and simplicity of the humble churches and faiths of many far and wide, I found amongst their differences the simple and common threads of humanity, regardless of race religion and wealth. Everyone wants to live happily and healthy. To provide for their children and hope they too will live long, fruitful, happy lives.
The “silly season” makes us feel guilty and stresses us into buying more gifts that aren’t really needed, wanted or kept. It’s also a time when we spend more than we earn to buy mountains of food we can’t possibly eat, then crash, “full as a bull”, to sleep off the day. Let’s take some time to just be, to think, dream and believe. Let’s take the time to listen and talk to our family and friends, to admire their achievements and support them in their growth.
If we are to recognise this time as the birth of Christ, we should take His approach to life as a guideline to our approach to Christmas. Give random acts of kindness to strangers, be the Good Samaritan in your village, bring food to the starving animals tied out in the sun and heat. Save a soul, forgive those who have trespassed against you, accept people, reserve judgment, as he did with Mary Magdalene. Protect the earth, recycle your plastic, keep rubbish away from our lagoon. See beauty in all things including the noisy roosters. Drink long and deep of the good fortune to live in a country that’s not at war, suffering famine or under siege. Appreciate your mate, your parents and children; unwrap your attitude to show gratitude - they are in your life to be both student and teacher to you.
Let’s not dream of a white Christmas, sticky pudding and carols of about dashing through the snow. Instead let’s dream of a right and bright Christmas where women and children are safe, air, water and food are clean and plentiful and free of toxic chemicals.
Believe there is a place for everyone and everything on earth as it is in heaven.
Wishing you a very Meri Kiritimiti, Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men, women and children.