We sat with a number of friends in our home this Christmas Eve trying to have a moment that would make this challenge of living here so far from family just a little easier and share the Spirit of Christmas as best we can. We were asked about the traditions of Christmas in our family and the things that we would have done were we in the US. We explained about the things that our family would do and the family that we would gather with. We told of the traditions that we had with our families growing up and the role that Santa would play and we talked about the role of Christ in Christmas. We had to again explain that we are not legally allowed to share anything that might be considered proselyting among the Chinese. We explained how we are trying to live by the laws that are established in China so that we can prove that the Mormons will obey the law; proof that Mormons will live the laws of the land in hopes that the church will be officially recognized by the government at some point in the future. The same things have been required in every place the Mormons have ever gone, we do it through the front door and as required by the governments.
I know that we likely could have read the Christmas story from Luke and the Book Of Mormon like we always do and it would not have really been proselyting in our opinion, but then again, why push the envelope and test the boundary of what is allowed. We could have easily done this; no one but the people present would have known (OK, I still think the house is bugged and that some of our friends may have to report what we do when we are with them; paranoid, just a little, but we are not so distant from the Cultural Revolution where the Chinese did those things to their own families). It was interesting that most of the people attending had no idea that there were those kinds of restrictions placed on us as foreigners in China. I hope for the day when we can talk openly about the importance of Christ and to give them more than just a basic answer. They deserve to know of the importance of Christ and his message; they deserve to know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and that He sent His Son to earth to save them and provide them a way to be able to return to Him.
As you celebrate Christmas in the many lands where it is recognized as a day of relaxation and time for family, remember that there are billions in other parts of the world that think that Christmas comes from a store. They think it is about the jolly elf that rides with the tiny reindeer to bring joy to the boys and girls of the world. They don’t know of the importance that it really has in the celebrations of the birth of the Divine Son of God. Consider how fortunate you and your family are in knowing that Christmas is intended to be more than something that comes from the store. It is about the hope and belief that there is a Christ; how this holiday season is a celebration of His arrival to begin that great work of salvation. As you enjoy this holiday season consider those who don’t know of The Christ and pray that their time to know might be hastened.