Christmas in China. That's right. Holiday cheer infuses China, as I happily discovered on a visit to Beijing a few Decembers ago.
The stores and streets were decked out with all the trimmings of a Herald Square holiday: garland and baubles, stars and angels, Santas, trees and wreaths, complete with beautiful holiday music in the background.
While only one percent of China is Christian, the celebration of Jesus' birth abounds, and not just in China, for the Christmas spirit shines throughout the world.
People of all religions and cultures share in the joys of Jesus' entry into the world.
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What does this mean? Some may see such universal celebration as a sign that Christianity is the one true religion. Others may think something like, "hey, that's our holiday, not yours."
Both views widely miss the mark.
First, the reality of God transcends Christianity — or any religion. Man created religion, not God. Jesus' warning to "beware the traditions of man" surely did not exclude those attendant to the religion created in his name. Thus, anything beyond love, compassion, mercy and truth is superfluous.
Second, Jesus himself said, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
Sheep equals Chinese, Japanese, Bhutanese, Swedes, Spaniards, Swahilis, everybody everywhere. Who is to say just how the voice of Jesus would reach this multi-hued flock?
The beautiful reality of Christmas is that his very birth is Jesus' voice come unto the world.
Those who celebrate, celebrate that voice, whatever their culture, race or religion. By each smile, each gesture of goodwill, every act of kindness, do sheep everywhere take steps into the Good Shepherd's fold. Jesus speaks, sheep hear. It's a beautiful thing.
And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
So, Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan (Merry Christmas in Mandarin), I'd Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida" (Arabic), Mo'adim Lesimkha (Hebrew), Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad (Farsi), Shinnen omedeto (Japanese), "Feliz Navidad. "oyeux Noel. Merry Christmas.
One Shepard, one flock, united by love.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men."