photo from the AP
ABU DHABI - This Christmas tree, parked in the lobby at the Emirates Palace Hotel, was describe this morning by the Associated Press as, an "$11 million symbol of the season."
"The Christmas spirit is not rare in the UAE," the story elaborated... "Malls are full of carolers, Santas and piped-in yuletide songs."
"But not everyone's jolly," the report went on to say. "Some Emirati officials worry about threats to Gulf traditions from the wave of Western Culture..."
Okay, time out here. An $11 million tree sporting solid gold ornaments and precious gem-studded bows is not a "Christmas spirit" event. And, as for such a display being emblematic of Western Culture, I'd say it fits more closely to the values of an oil-rich oligarchy. Hotels featuring "vending machines that pop out small gold bars" are not built for American families taking a break from their usual vacation at the Days Inn on Panama City Beach.
And, please oh please stop using the word "Christmas" as a buzz-word for opulence and the indecency of conspicuous excess! I'm this close (for a visual, I'm holding my thumb and index finger exactly one 16th of an inch apart while grimacing loudly at the computer screen. And, yes, it is possible to grimace loudly)... this close to lobbying for a new name for the December festivities, and suggesting we move the celebration of Christ's birth to, say, late January.
I know I'm a huge proponent of celebration. "The idea of Christ's birth is a celebration worth going over the top for!" I say time and again. But then I wonder - today at least - if we're out-and-out losing the battle and, in doing so, effectively distancing an entire culture from the possibility of knowing the truth?
I'm not discouraged so much as convicted today, and cautious. Our church just reached the $15,000 mark for our Heifer Living Gift Market, and I'm so grateful to be a part of such generosity of heart. The Christmas spirit will only be evident in Abu Dhabi - as advertised - if they at the very least tithe the $11 million tree.
"What can I give him,
...poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd,
...I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man,
...I would do my part.
Yet what can I give him: .
...give my heart..."
(In the Bleak Midwinter)
This picture, above right, is from our tree at home. The nativity is from Peru, carved from a piece of wood and purchased at a "World Village" mission market. The story it tells is one of simplicity, faith, hard work, belief and abundant life through a restored relationship with the Creator.
That's the story of Christmas. It's the only story we should be telling.