With over 1.3 billion souls and very few Christians, China remains the mother lode for evangelists in this world.Despite an oppressive government hostile toward organized religion, the citizenry are hungry for the Truth and millions are willing to risk the wrath of the authorities by joining churches.
Short of learning Mandarin and sneaking into mainland China to furtively distribute bibles, what can Christians in the West do to help the Chinese break down the barriers holding back Christianity?
Simple: move Christmas back so that it coincides with the Chinese New Year.
Before you judge us as wild-eyed rabble rousers intent on destroying a cherished holiday, consider the fact that the current date on which we celebrate Christmas was chosen solely to co-opt the pagan Europeans, whose High Holy Day was the Winter Solstice. The coinciding of the two holidays meant that the pagans who converted could continue to have the same holy day as before-except that they would be celebrating something entirely different, namely the birth of the Savior.
The Christmas tree comes from the pagan holiday as well, incidentally.
The Chinese New Year already has a lot in common with Christmas -- an exchange of gifts, the reuniting of families, decorations galore, and the serving of a traditional meal. A central theme of the Chinese New Year is to reconcile with estranged friends and families, let go of any grudges and wish peace and happiness for everyone-pretty Christian sentiments, most would agree.
Moving Christmas back a month or two (the date of the Chinese New Year is tied to the lunar calendar and falls between Jan 21 and February 20th) would actually bring us myriad benefits as well:
We could avoid the clumping of the year-end holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's day so that the chances of overdosing on family togetherness falls precipitously.
In fact, having Thanksgiving and Christmas two or three months apart might reduce the family travel triage that so many of us do today when confronted with having to make two long, expensive, hassle-filled trips so close together.
For those who complain about people forgetting the reason for the season, they should keep in mind that a Christmas that comes a month or two after New Year instead of sandwiched between Thanksgiving and the New Year would be more difficult to secularize than today, when the media lumps the three together as a generic "Holiday Season."
For the less faithful we should point out that a January/February Christmas would up the odds of having White Christmases, and the soon-to-be lengthened (we hope) NFL season means we will still be able to watch football over the holiday -- playoff football, no less.
And we would be remiss if we did not observe that a February Christmas is actually close to the true birth day of Christ, according to scholars.
There is probably a middle ground, such as the establishment of an Asian Christian Church that celebrates holidays on different days and thus could allow the Chinese to have Christmas coincide with their New Year without inconveniencing us.
However, moving our holiday would be a truly Christian gesture to a people who already buy into the major precepts of our faith and are clearly ready to be embraced by the church.
And as uncomfortable as it may be for some to contemplate, we Christians are tasked with spreading the Gospel of Christ. Most of us don't have it in us to move to a foreign land and proselytize, but demanding that our churches move Christmas-or at least not protesting such a move-is a small sacrifice we can all make that could bring millions more people to know Christ.