Holidays remind the far-flung family member of home, tradition, and making memories with family. I still feel disappointment at the lack of Christmas "spirit" over here. But after having several years to adjust the lens of my worldview a bit, I am able to see parts of our own culture a little more objectively, though I’m sure I’m still biased.
remember our first couple of years being asked by new believers whether
we were having a Good Friday service (or a Christmas service, depending
on the holiday). We almost laughed at them, replying, “No…” (“Or course
not!” we thought. “Who goes to church on those days?”)
couple of years I felt a sense of frustration at the question. Perhaps I
was fighting the Holy Spirit’s nudging to introspect about the matter.
My attitude: “Humph. That’s old-fashioned. They only ask that because
that’s what the state church did for years.” South Africa’s
state church during apartheid was the Dutch Reformed church. Other
denominations did not have as many rights as the attendees of the state
church. The Dutch Reformed had a Christmas and Good Friday service.
Naturally new believers in our ministry asked if we were having one.
now we’ve completed the circle, having both a Christmas and Good Friday
service in our little Baptist church. We often combine with the other
two Baptist churches in our region for these special services and
sometimes have a meal or snack afterwards.
A year or two ago, a blogger asked missionaries what negative aspects they noticed about America and American culture
when they return to the States after living abroad. From my
perspective, I have come to realize how saturated Americans are with
fun. Fun, fun, fun. I catch myself telling my kids to “go have fun” when
they play and judging a whole occasion’s worth by whether it was fun or
not. Homeschool reviewers call this or that curriculum “fun.” It’s
become a right—especially on the holidays!
Americans don’t go to
church on the religious holidays, unless they happen to fall on a Sunday
in which case we all feel gypped out of our full holiday anyways,
because that would ruin our fun. I was frustrated to “give up” my
already much-lessened holiday to a day of ministry, which is most
definitely in the work category, not the day-off category.
have to go to church on Christmas and Good Friday, well…all those rosy
pictures you had in your mind of fuzzy-wuzzy family traditions? You can
chuck those out. Cinnamon roll brunch after opening presents in our
jammies in front of the Christmas tree (after reading the Christmas
story, of course)—replace that with getting up early, dressing up the
kids to go to church on a muddy, rainy day. And the fancy meal Mom was
going to make while the kids all attempt to break their brand-new toys
in record time this year? She can’t make it, since she’s at church.
You’ll have to do that on Christmas Eve. Oh, but that’s not our
tradition, comes the outcry!
On Good Friday if you go to church,
you’ll have to replace “fun” with serious sitting still to meditate on
Christ’s suffering. That nice long weekend off of work and school when
the kids stay home in play clothes and decorate eggs together and then
have an Easter egg hunt? That’s out. (at least on Good Friday) Even
though of course eggs have nothing to do with Easter, as we all know.
“New life!” we call it, trying to make Easter “fun” by mixing a
celebration of spring in with Christ’s resurrection, all the while
shaking our heads and wagging our fingers at those “syncretistic
I have felt angry before at the Africans on Easter
weekend: they take days that were made holidays in South Africa solely
for worship and observing their religious importance, and use them for
drunken parties with constant cacophonous music playing 24 hours all
Easter weekend. But how much better are Americans when we say that Jesus
is the Reason for the Season, yet feel frustrated at having to go to
church to actually worship Him corporately with other believers?
not trying to be too harsh on Americans. I’m not glorifying the natives
and saying that African culture is better. Actually their going to
church on Good Friday and Christmas isn’t even their own culture; it’s
the Afrikaners’. I still think American Christianity is the best
expression of Christianity in the modern world. And I like a hard-boiled
egg as well as anybody, though did anyone ever think of what an
oxymoron it is to eat “deviled” eggs on Easter?
I don’t have all
the answers yet for how exactly to observe these holidays. But I am
thankful for being put in this position that is forcing me to think more
about our traditions. I think we’re one step closer to “rightness” in
our feelings when we worship Christ with other believers those two extra
days a year—on Christmas and Good Friday. It might not be fun; but
that’s not what those days are about, right?