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Christmas in Thailand 2006

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

There's a classic song that says "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" but almost nothing here in Thailand signals the coming of Christmas. A few stores have tinsel and santa hats but there is no snow, no commercial push for gift buying, no Christmas carols playing at the mall, no Christmas vacation for school kids, and no day off on December 25th. Any why should it look like Christmas is coming in a nation where over ninety percent of the population is Buddhist?

With this said, there is a significant amount of curiousity about Christmas since it is, popularly, a Western cultural holiday that shows up in a lot of movies and English language learning materials that make into Thailand. Of course, movies mostly show the side of Christmas that has to do with Santa, Christmas trees, and gifts but here in Thailand, many Thai churches and missionaries seize upon people's curiousity about Christmas to share about the true meaning of Christmas. Schools and colleges are open to having Christians come and do Christmas activies (in Thai and English) as part of the school's English curriculum. Many churches (which there aren't too many of, to begin with) do special Christmas outreaches and evangelist meetings to present the true meaning of Christmas to those people brought to church by their friends.

This past Sunday night, we took part in a Christmas dinner/gathering/evening put on by our fellow missionaries, Rob & Judy, who live a few houses down from us. They have been in the neighborhood longer than us and have built some friendships with neighbors despite limited Thai (they are new missionaries attending the language school as well). They had gathered about ten people for a buffet type meal and we all chatted, sung "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and did a few games. I had prepared a true/false "Christmas Quiz" to play with people as a way to get them thinking about the meaning of Christmas. The quiz was a mix of cultural Christmas questions (i.e. about Santa, reindeer, etc) and Biblical Christmas questions (i.e. about Christ, the wise men, etc.). The quiz (click here to see) was fun for our Thai neighbors but also revealed their lack of knowledge about Christmas. One fellow was rather stumped by whether Santa Claus was Jesus' father or not. However, when we reviewed the results and I gave the correct answers to everyone, I was able to explain the truth about Christmas and to tell some of the Christmas story. I gave out some Christmas themed tracts for them to take home to stimulate thought. One astute fellow looked at the tract and then said, "Now we can ask our questions about Jesus. So, why did Jesus die on the cross?" Isn't that a great question? I had a chance to explain briefly Christ's work on the cross but time and the informal group setting limited how much I was able to share before conversation went on to other things. In God's sovereignty however, God will change people's hearts in his timing and will use the Gospel truth that they hear over the course of months or years to bring them to a knowledge of the truth. It is always exciting for me to answer questions like "Why did Jesus die on the cross?" because it gives me the opportunity to make the Gospel known. And we know that God's word will accomplish what He sends it for and will not return to him void (Is. 55:10-11) but will find's it's place in the hearts of some who will believe unto eternal life.

As to our own Christmas celebration, we went to a local OMF-associated church in Lopburi on Sunday morning and then on Christmas evening (the 25th), some of the missionaries in Lopburi gathered to have a meal together, to sing carols, and to pray. It was excellent to share some fellowship together (not to mention roast beef and spring rolls), and to sing (in English) some classic Christmas carols with brothers and sisters in Christ.

The next couple of weeks the language school is closed for Christmas and New Year's and then we will start up with classes again on January 10th. So, we'll take a rest, try to get over our colds, do a bit of reading, start looking for a car, go to Bangkok for a couple days, and maybe some Thai study even while school's out.

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