This will be our third Christmas in Asia, and we still have trouble adjusting to the heat at this time of year. Of course Christmas for Christ was probably pretty warm as well if the shepherds were still out at night with the flocks, don’t you think? But still Christmas without snow and a tree and the fireplace is not the same for those of us who have grown up with those comforting things around us.

Unlike North America, where Christmas seems to be under attack from every side by those claiming that as Christians we have no right to intrude on their lives with our celebrations, Christmas is celebrated with enthusiasm in Malaysia by everyone. So is Deepavali and Ramadan, Hari Raya and Thaipusam. Despite the problems of this country, this is one area in which I think they have a superior attitude to our own.

Instead of trying to eliminate every reference to religion from public life under the notion that it will offend someone, Malaysia celebrates every faith’s special event in the understanding that if it is meaningful to someone, it should be honoured. Asians recognize that faith is an important part of being human, and celebration is not only enjoyable but necessary if we are to understand and respect one another as people.

So a Merry Christmas to all, even those who grow resentful at the joy of others and wish the world was as mean-hearted as they imagine it to be. Great joy to you as well, for the King of Joy has come to earth and shown us what great love and joy lay in store for those who like Him seek to fill this world with good deeds and kind spirits. May His spirit be a blessing to all of you at this blessed time of year.

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