In America, I’ve noticed that more and more stores and restaurants are staying open on Christmas Day. Our consumer-driven mindset has taken over – where buying is more of a priority than the relationships we have with one another. Time-and-a-half pay draws employees to work on this special day, taking them away from family; when stores are open, people are out and about, making last minute purchases…which means more business so more stores are open and less people are home, and the cycle continues.
If I were president, I would mandate a public holiday on Christmas – where absolutely all stores and restaurants must be closed. This way, it would encourage at least one day out of the year to be spent at home, with friends and family, enjoying one another’s company.
It’s noon on Christmas Day here – I’m sitting at a hostel in Malawi, Africa. You might be surprised to hear that in Africa there are no Christmas decorations or Christmas trees. In fact, yesterday when we visited an orphanage, the eyes of the girls opened real wide when we talked about Christmas trees teeming with presents; they asked with astonishment how the presents get there?
As a young girl, I remember waiting in anticipation for Christmas day –which for me was the day I got to open up all my presents. I remember standing in my room with my hand on the doorknob – until 6:58, 6:59, 7:00am when I could come out of my room and see what Santa brought.
But in Africa, Christmas doesn’t mean presents at all. For many Africans, Christmas is the one day out of the year where they get to eat meat – chicken and rice…Christmas means going to late-night service on Christmas Eve, then coming to church in the morning to worship with friends and celebrate Christ’s birth. More than anything else, Christmas means spending time with friends and family.
And there is something beautiful about this. Because I believe the best present you can give someone is your heart – your time and presence. Making memories together is something that binds people together and that no one can take away.
This year, there was no Christmas presents for me. Instead, I got to wake up and play cards with my teammates; I even learned an amazing new game called Osha. We had a talent show where we performed a short skit or song for one another about what Christmas meant to us. Then we shared a nice meal together…it’s amazing how good beef and potatoes can taste when it’s something you don’t eat regularly. Then we all cooled off by swimming in the pool here (we are so blessed!) before Skyping with our families back in America.
And I have to say – this was an amazing Christmas. You see, when there are no decorations or presents, there are little distractions to the true meaning of Christmas of celebrating Christ’s birth:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6)
So this Christmas, like Jesus, I encourage you to give yourself incarnationally to one another. Give your time, your presence, your talents. And take the money that you would spend and give it away to people in the world who are in need. Americans spend 450 billion dollars in the month of December every year – but guess how much it would only cost for every single person on the face of the planet to have access to clean water? Just 20 billion dollars, less than 5% of what we spend on Christmas…
And this is why, if I were president, I would mandate that all stores and restaurants be closed on Christmas.
P.S. If you would like to give this Christmas, Living Water International is a great organization dedicated to drilling water wells across the world and ending the global water crisis. Check them out here: