It has become fashionable in the West to become churlish at Christmas. ‘Bah Humbug’s fill the air like noxious smog. Instead of greeting Christians cheerily, the airwaves and printed pages are filled with venom and invective towards us. Ebenezer Scrooge – at least before he’d had a change in heart – would be delighted. I know that has been going on for some years now. We had one particularly vindictive shrew at the school where I worked who would instruct her class – I couldn’t help but think of the Nazi Youth League at the time – to roam the halls inspecting ‘seasonal’ decorations on our doors to ensure that nothing Christian was in evidence, and report us if there was. Then we would be ‘eliminated’ from competition by the ‘decorating committee.’ There’s a woman who clearly missed her calling by a couple of decades.

This could well be our last Christmas in this part of the world, and there are certain things that are true about Malaysia. Yes, it is unbearably hot at times. Yes, it does rain – torrentially – for weeks on end. Yes, the sidewalks are broken or non-existent, the traffic congested, the roads like tortured spaghetti, the government corrupt and incompetent, the illegal immigrants and refugees persecuted and abused, the muezzin intolerably loud, especially at 5:30 in the morning or 7:30 in the evening when you would like nothing better than a little quiet conversation with your date for the evening. All of this and much more is true, and none of this comes as any surprise to those of us who live here.

But this is also true: the people here are kind and friendly and generous to a fault. They are as happy to wish you, as a Christian, a Merry Christmas, as they are delighted that you wish them a Happy Deepavali or Eid al-Fitr, Theravada, or Gong Xi Fa Cai. There is no craven Happy Holidays, or the even more smarmy Happy Festivus. Malaysians are of the opinion that there are times in everyone’s life worth celebrating, and are large enough in spirit not to begrudge you your celebration.

Imagine someone refusing to wish you a Happy Birthday because it wasn’t their birthday, and therefore not worth a greeting. Would such a person escape being labeled boorish and inconsiderate? Such are those who withhold the greeting appropriate to one of faith, whether that faith be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Shinto, or Christian. Fie on them. Merry Christmas! It is a time of great celebration. The God of all creation came to earth to show us how to treat each other on earth and to show us the way to heaven. If that isn’t worth celebrating, then nothing is.

In celebration Pam and I went dancing last night. Badly, I’m afraid. We are out of practice and both heavy on our feet. But it was a pleasant evening, nonetheless. Tonight we will celebrate Christmas Eve with my longest serving buddy in Malaysia, Easton Hanna and his new wife at their apartment. Tomorrow morning we get to Skype with our grandchildren in Seattle as they open their presents, and enjoy another Skype visit with our family in Calgary. We have a boys only online video game scheduled for Boxing Day. There is much joy in our hearts as we anticipate all of this happiness. Is that not cause enough to be merry? Casting aside our usual frugality in honour of the special occasion, we even bought each other presents.

All of this to say Merry Christmas to you, gentle reader. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers this past year. It has been a tough year for us personally, as it has for the world at large. But yet there is much to be thankful for, and I trust that you also will remember what has cheered your heart and encouraged your spirit. May peace be your portion, and glad tidings of great joy, as you think upon God’s great Gift to us.