Sun, 8 December 2019
People around the world celebrate Christmas in unique ways.
In the Philippines the “Giant Lantern Festival” is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. Eleven villages take part in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone pitches in trying to build the most elaborate lantern.
In Iceland for the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 “tricksy” troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland. They are called the “Yule Lads.” For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones. Clad in traditional Icelandic costume, these fellas are pretty mischievous.
Italian children believe that their Christmas gifts are delivered, not by St. Nick, but by a kind, old witch named “La Befana” who uses her broom to clean untidy houses. Legend has it that Befana was cleaning her house, when the Three Wise Men knocked on her door asking for directions to reach the stables where Baby Jesus had just been born. She didn’t know, but she kindly provided them with accommodation for the night. In the morning the Three Wise Men invited her to accompany them on their journey. Too absorbed in her household work, she refused, but regretted it almost instantly. Befana wrapped a present and tried to catch up with the Tree Wise Men, but got lost and is still trying to find the way. So, every year, during the Christmas season, she leaves presents to children in her search for Baby Jesus.
Some of these practices may seem strange to us but we have our own hodge-podge of customs in the US--Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and mistletoe!
How ought we to celebrate Christmas? I have good news. We have a model in a kind, wise, and, likely, elderly man. His name is Simeon. His story is recorded in Luke 2:25-35. He shows us how we ought to celebrate God’s greatest gift both at Christmas as well as every day. He walked with God. He worshipped God. And he witnessed for God.
Join us for Christmas at Istrouma this Sunday as we continue our series, “The Light of the World.”
The Light of the World
“How to Celebrate Christmas”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him (2:25).
He took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation (2:28-30).
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (2:34-35).