At last! The dishes were all washed, dried, and stacked in the cupboard, and I put the leftover food in the fridge as the last of our visitors’ cars pulled away from our volunteer center and made their way down the street. It was after eleven.
Wearily I trudged down the hallway to my room, where I yanked out the pins that had been holding back my hair and collapsed onto the bed, my mind too tired to remember what came next.
“Long day?” my roommate asked from across the room. Apparently she wasn’t as worn out as I was. I managed a faint smile, which she returned. I knew she understood. Christmas is always like this at our center. As Westerners living in a Buddhist country where Christmas is still somewhat of a curiosity, we are always in high demand to demonstrate the proper fashion in which to celebrate the holiday. It is a good opportunity to share God’s love, but one that also means weeks of planning and decorating, endless streams of visitors, Christmas performances with the children, carol singing, Nativity-storytelling, organizing gift distributions for needy children … and the list goes on and on. I usually enjoyed the activity and excitement, but too many late nights and being stretched thin day after day had taken a toll.
“I wish Christmas didn’t have to come,” I moaned as I rolled out of bed and began flipping through clothes in my closet, trying to find something to wear for yet another show that we were booked for the following day.
My roommate’s eyebrows rose at my outburst, but she waited a moment or two before answering. “Now that’s something to think about,” she replied thoughtfully. “What if Christmas had never come?”
I shrugged it off, my mind a blur. It wasn’t until later, alone in the Christmas tree-lit living room, that the thought sunk in.
What if Christmas had never come? No star, no shepherds, no stable. No angelic visitations and no extraordinary happenings. An ordinary Nazarene girl would have lived out her obscure life. The shepherds would have passed the night like any other, keeping watch over their flocks, with no reason to hope for a better life, no Savior, no personal experience with a God who loved them. Those wise men in the East would have continued their exploration of the night sky, marveling at the wonders of creation but never knowing the Creator.
The years would pass, the ages would roll on by, the Ebenezer Scrooges would continue to grouch their way through life, and the Bob Cratchits would continue to eke out a living. No hope, no joy. Two thousand times, December 25th would come and go like any other day—no family reunions, no gift giving, no quiet reflection. No one would miss Christmas, be-cause no one would realize what they were missing.
And then there would be the end, that mysterious, dreaded moment that comes in every life. No atonement, no assurance of forgiveness. No babe in a manger would mean no cross on a hillside and no empty tomb. Life would be a hollow existence, day-to-day drudgery, with no constant companion to give it meaning and no Savior from death.
What if Christmas had never come?
Suddenly I found myself smiling. Christmas had come! The lit-up Christmas tree before me came to life. The star at the top shined like a beacon of hope. Lovingly wrapped presents peeked out from behind the tinsel. The tiny figurines in the nearby manger scene echoed the angels’ proclamation: “Joy to the world!” It was all a celebration of the most wonderful gift possible—God’s love in the form of a Savior. How could I have dreaded that?
I headed back to my room with renewed energy and joy in my step. Tomorrow was another day to celebrate Christmas and help others do the same. I could hardly wait.
Christina Andreassen is a member of the Family International in Thailand.