I love the Christmassy atmosphere overseas and in fact, I have very fond memories of the many Christmases I spent in the UK during my college days; the pure excitement of getting ready for the festive seasons as soon as the month of December arrived, the hassle and bustle of Christmas shopping, the food and drinks, the time spent with friends, the warmth from the crackling fireplace, the scent of real Christmas trees and the cold, well, I do miss even the chilly winter a little bit during this special time of year.
Christmas is only a day away and as I reflect on those wonderful time spent overseas, as much as I enjoyed and loved it and do miss it terribly especially those dear friends whom I met all those years ago and still keep in touch with until this day, I must admit that it was never as meaningful as the last 11 Christmases I spent at home in Malaysia. Not that I am closer to my family and friends here or that I am back in my own country and surrounded by people and things that I am familiar with, it is simply that at the time Christmas was just Christmas, the biggest celebration of the year overseas and celebrated by most regardless whether they are Christians or not, a time to be merry and to forgive and forget, it was commercialised and all I knew were the presents, Santa, elves and mistletoes! But since 11 years ago, Christmas has taken a new meaning to me and only then I embraced the real meaning of Christmas! Now when I sing carols I sing them wholeheartedly and with pure joy as I truly celebrate and remember the birth of someone very special more than 2,000 years ago — He is God’s gift to all mankind, He is my Lord, my saviour!
Now as I celebrate Christmas in hot and humid tropical Malaysia where we see only artificial Christmas trees, never a chance for snowflakes or a white Christmas, no chestnuts roasting on an open fire, shorts and t-shirts are the acceptable attire to go Christmas shopping in air-conditioned shopping centres, instead of imported turkey we get to enjoy “international cuisine”, i.e. interpreted as mainly Asian dishes for Christmas dinner in some homes, and in some part of town we probably cannot even detect a hint of Christmas mood due to our diverse culture and different faith, these circumstances do not diminish or deflate, not even one bit, of my Christmas spirit as I have Christmas in my heart, and we have Immanuel, God with us!
At this juncture as I sing “Joy to the World”, celebrate Christmas in the sun and remember Jesus is the reason for the season, I would like to wish you all, wherever you are, not “Happy Holidays” but a truly merry and blessed Christmas!