Celebrating Christmas as a kid made me feel thoroughly American. Buying a tree, hanging stockings, and having candle lights in the windows was the most connected I ever came to my non-Indian classmates and neighbors. It was the one time of year where we lived our lives in a similar way. All of this, of course, was intentional. My mom, like many immigrants who came to the U.S. in the seventies, had not celebrated Christmas in her home country. Having married an Anglo American man and raising bicultural kids, however, made this holiday feel like a requirement to assimilate. It didn’t matter if we still ate traditional Indian food or only exchanged a few gifts. The material objects we bought and strung up around our house served as a megaphone to say, We belong.
The older I became, the more I believed the myth of assimilating at Christmastime. December became a month of watching Hallmark movies, The Christmas Story, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I consumed nothing but stories of happy white people, giving gifts and experiencing “the Christmas spirit.” Feasts became larger. Wearing fancy American dresses, doing cookie exchanges and Secret Santas were all musts. I began to believe this was how I was supposed to celebrate the holidays as an Indian American Christian.
But after college I found myself questioning it all: Was I celebrating Christmas to really reflect upon and give thanks for the birth of Jesus or was I trying to find a place to belong in what often felt like an overtly white American holiday?
I’ve wrestled with this question over the years, and lately, I’ve been trying to get back to my own roots during the Christmas season. I want this time of year to be a season of prayer, gratitude, and devotion to what Christ has come and done, not a chaotic month of presents, decorations, cookies, and parties. More than that, I want to be more connected to who I am as an Indian American woman. What does it mean to celebrate the birth of Jesus in ways that are authentic and meaningful to who I am as a cultural being? How can I celebrate Christmas — and by extension, holidays in general — in ways that incorporate all of who I am as whole, beautiful, and good?
I’m reimagining my cultural narrative and values and asking myself, How can I make this about Christ? How can I celebrate what Jesus has done and is doing in my cultural story?
Our cultures are a composite of our ethnic story. Part of my story as a bicultural, second generation, Indian American woman is navigating liminal space, of straddling different worlds and living in the in-between. I’m not fully Asian, nor fully white. My story is a mix of the east and west, of immigration and crossing borders, of farmers and people of the land. And the beauty of the Christmas story is that Jesus came down to earth with me in mind. Jesus the Messiah came to save and rescue me, a caramel-colored woman with all of my joys and pains, all my passions, struggles, and insecurities. Jesus doesn’t overlook me. Jesus doesn’t reject me because I don’t fit into neat racial categories. He sees me in my humanity and loves me as His child.
The simpler I make Christmas, the more I discover this truth.
This year I’m choosing to make Christmas more story-driven. Sure, I might still bake some holiday cookies with my kids, but instead of blasting Christmas classics non-stop and filling our evenings with holiday movies, we’re spending more time talking and reflecting on the good news of Jesus for our Indian-Mexican family. We’re asking each other questions like, “In what ways should the coming of Jesus ’cause great joy’ (Luke 2:10) for us as second generation Indians and Mexicans? How can we embrace the peace of Jesus as cultural beings this Christmas (Luke 2:14)? And in what ways can we celebrate and give glory to God in distinctly Indian and Mexican ways?”
As you gather with your families around the table, I want to invite you to consider asking the same kinds of questions as it relates to your own ethnic roots. Perhaps there are objects and materials within your ethnic heritage that you can repurpose or create to point to Christ. Maybe the foods and dress of your culture can be thoughtful ways to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
As we take into account our cultural and ethnic roots, may we be like the Israelites of old, recounting memories and sharing stories of what God is doing in our lives. Let’s celebrate and worship Jesus with our own tongue, culture, and values and reimagine Christmas in a way that is more diverse and authentic to who we all are as God’s children.Leave a Comment
Andree Hidalgo says
I’m somewhat bothered by the underlying sentiment in this devo this AM….maybe I’m thinking way too simply, but I have no idea why traditions/fun events one chooses to celebrate would be termed, “celebrating an overtly white Christmas”. I am white, not by choice, but because I was created in God’s image by parents who came from European lineage—in the same way every other person reading this was created in God’s image (though probably from countless different ethnicities/lineages). I married someone of Hispanic descent. I’m so very concerned about the many comments being made in this Christ-centered website/devotional posting about what is “white”. None of us should apologize for our heritage or ways of celebrating anything, specifically the birth of our Savior and season of Advent. It doesn’t matter to me that your skin is “caramel”—as I would hope it wouldn’t matter to you that my skin is light, but my daughter’s probably gets darker than yours. I’m dismayed because so much focus in our world is about skin color and what is considered too WHITE?!?! Jesus, as a Jewish man, was born to save us from our sins….and I’m so very thankful for his amazing sacrifice…no matter what skin color he had.
Celebrate in ways that your family and friends enjoy—but I don’t believe we should categorize how we enjoy and do things during Christmas or other holidays by our heritage/ethnicity. I’m wrapping Christmas presents for friends and family today, grading my students’ papers and making Christmas treat bags for them, watching LSU lose AGAIN (ugghh 🙂 ) and listening to a Christmas album this morning by Lauren Daigle. I have NEVER thought to define how those things would be “white” or otherwise.
Christmas love and blessings to all of you today and the coming days…..and since I have no idea how you all celebrate and what color your skin is…..know that this blessing comes with no judgment and only kindness and love.
Andree, thank you for your comment! I felt the same way. Feeling better after reading what you wrote. May God bless you and your family! Mary
Teresa Thompson says
Andree ~ Thank you for putting into words what I was feeling, with love and eloquence.
Yes! Thank you for saying so well what so many are feeling these days. We have one Shepherd and are one fold of many tongues, tribes and nations. We can all celebrate our diversity and heritage but let it not become a way of destroying our unity. For truly there is only one race. The human race. And we are all created in His image.❤️
I could not have written this better! I have to admit that I felt a “zing” while reading this morning’s devotional. Not only can I not change what color my skin is, I wouldn’t want to because God made me as I am in His image and loves me for who I am.
Traditions are what make them, not what your neighbors do in their households but yours alone.
Today I hope to safely visit a small quilt shop, finish sewing a new curtain and play with my grandboy. I am blessed beyond measure and looking forward to a wondrous winter season.
Becky Keife says
Andree and friends,
I really appreciate your comment and your honesty in how this post sat with you. As a white woman too, I can say that listening to Harry Conick Jr. croon classic Christmas carols while we decorate a tree, ice gingerbread houses, string up colorful lights and evergreen garlands IS my family’s holiday heritage. These things are not what Christmas is “about” — Jesus is the reason we celebrate! — but they are an outward expression of our joy and celebration.
As I read Michelle’s post and listen for her heart, I think what she’s saying is that traditionally “American” expressions (and America is majority white with white-centered characters in holiday films, cards, toys, etc) are not the ONLY right, good, beautiful expressions of Christmas cheer. Rather than an indictment on mainstream tradition, I believe this post is meant to be an invitation for those who feel stifled or boxed in by commercialized Christmas to embrace holiday traditions that are more consistent with and honoring of their cultural background. This isn’t something I can personally relate to, but I can applaud my sisters of color (and all women with strong ethnic ties for that matter) for whom this is needed and meaningful. (Side note: I’m so very glad my Korean stepmom would make the most amazing Korean barbecue for Christmas dinner!)
But above all, I think Michelle’s question sums it up perfectly: How can I make this about Christ? No matter what our Christmas festivities look like, we all get to celebrate the greatest gift of our Savior. Oh, where would we be without Jesus?
I’m really grateful for this space to respectfully dialogue, listen, share, and learn from one another.
All the peace, hope, and joy of Christ to each of you dear sisters this Christmas,
(in)courage Community Manager
I like getting these posts and reading the comments because I learn something new every time – whether it resounds with me or not. I would really like to hear more from Michelle about her family traditions and foods, etc. It is a different culture from what I am used to and I would love to learn about it!
Becky Keife says
Indiane, I love hearing that so much! I too am eager to learn from Michelle and my fellow (in)courage writers. Thanks so much for being here and sharing your listening heart.
Mary E says
I agree with you Indiane . I would enjoy learning more about Michelle cultural traditions and favorite food.
God bless you (in)courage community.
How I read it: the way other people “do” specific celebrations isn’t how *we* have to “do” that celebration. There isn’t anything inherently Christ-Christmassy about most of our celebratory stuff (even my beloved twinkle lights); pretty much all of it is optional and can be shifted/changed to be more about *us* and *God* – including our traditions and cultural heritage – rather than about the assumptions of our surrounding culture (whatever that is).
Interestingly, I haven’t seen anyone object when people have posted extremely similar things about them not being made by God to be Martha Stewart Crafters, or them not being made by God to love cooking, and it being fine, despite Pinterest, Instagram, and the neighbors, to skip certain types of the Required Celebratory Motions and focus on others or invent their own. But bring the fact that some people have multiple cultural and ethnic heritages, and nope! Commenters get squiffy; people shouldn’t expressly state that it’s good to incorporate those elements, because…? We don’t want to hear about race/ethnicity/culture as it relates to some people not being fully at home? Or what exactly? We don’t want people to not be excited about our “home” Christmas celebrations and be welcomed to explore different things? Or do we want everyone to pretend everything’s equal and totally fine here, and not at all a problem for people with different skin tones and cultural heritage? Or just not talk about most of what’s presented being white?
(In terms of things being “white” – I understand how that’s an annoying categorization, but: I looked for Christmas cards with Nativity scenes on them this year; 19 out of 20, at least, were all Caucasian except for the wise men, when they appeared in the scene. This is… pretty weird, given that we have a decent sense of what is likely in terms of skin tones and hair from that region? And I don’t think I ever noticed the American nativity art thing before this year; has it always been like that, and I just never noticed since that’s my default? After that, I also looked at the cards that had random not-Santa people on them – carolers, or cookie-bakers, or sleigh-riders, or a child kneeling at his bedside, or whatever – they only had white people on them, except for those specifically labeled in a separate Multicultural or African-American card brand – there weren’t even any non-white *angels* except for specific card lines directed towards African-Americans and thus being labeled as Not The Normal Thing. What other things am I not noticing about how my “home culture” is quietly not-including those who aren’t white in the default celebration/art/etc. stuff?)
Lucretia Berry says
When I read Michelle’s post, I didn’t read that a ‘white’ Christmas was a bad thing. It’s simply a different thing, with practices that are not particularly meaningful to her. Hearing about how Michelle continues to grow in seeing Jesus’ birth expressed in her unique third culture identity and in a multi-ethinic family is refreshing. We don’t have to adopt someone else’s culture to worship in truth. Spirit meets us in our own cultural context. This is the beauty of our GOD in whom we ALL can know belonging and love. In her story, I read that she is growing into the freedom that we have in Christ.
I agree that some uninformed conversations about race and ethnicity can be divisive and distracting. But in Michelle’s story, I read about a common story of seeing ourselves in Christ — an experience that unifies us.
Much love & peace
Michele Morin says
Thank you for this glimpse of a Christmas celebration that mirrors the gathering of Magi and the one-day congregation around the throne of God (where I hope to learn lots of new praise music).
Becky Keife says
Amen, Michele! Won’t that be the day when we sing in every tongue and dance in every rhythm in celebration of our Jesus King?!
Joan Snowden says
The beauty of worshipping God is that he frees us from our human identity through his son’s death on the cross and we all become one with him when we accept him into our heart through faith. Focusing on our human identity misses this point. That is what being a Christian means. We are first and foremost Christian. I’m so glad that you are truly focusing on Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas and not on yourself ( identity, cookies, dresses, presents) You have freed yourself from human bondage and are enjoying what Christ wants for your life. May you experience his peace and his joy this Christmas!
Joan, while I am indebted to all that Jesus has freed me from, I believe that God gave us our cultural identity to express and reflect aspects of Himself in beautiful and important ways. He chose to send Jesus into a specific cultural context and it mattered. It wasn’t without thought. In the same way that he didn’t discard the specifics of his heritage, skin color, culture, and language (but DID in fact discard some of the harmful dominant traditions of the day that got in the way of people coming to know him), I believe we are called to do the same: live freely and fully as the cultural beings He created us to be. In Revelation 7:9 it says that we will worship Jesus with our distinct tribes, nations and peoples seen – we won’t blend into one homogenous color, and in Psalm 86:9, it says, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.” He’s made our differences so that we can each reflect part of him – what a tragedy it would be to discard these divinely given parts! So yes, let’s discard the things that don’t point to him, but not the very details he gave us to reflect him so beautifully.
Michelle, this is a courageous devotional and a voice we need to hear in these days. Thank you for providing a sensitive and thought provoking reflection on how Christmas is celebrated and how we might begin to grow in our awareness of the dominance of white, Eurocentric traditions. If these traditions are part of our families, we love them. It is hard to see it any other way. To listen and to learn how others experience our celebration of Christmas is so necessary. I am grateful for this challenge today, and prayerfully ask the Spirit of God to help me grow. Thank you.
Becky Keife says
Sharon, this is so thoughtfully said. Yes. Thank you.
This post only adds to the current racial divide in our nation. Every post I’ve read by this author highlights that she is Indian American and has caramel colored skin. I read her posts and can’t help but feeling like an outsider- which is ironic considering she writes about feeling this way. In a website that I read to be “incouraged,” I instead feel discouraged to learn that my “white” Christmas traditions and heritage is somehow wrong or not genuine. The more we focus on our differences, the more divided we remain.
As I learned growing up and hope to instill in my children, Jesus is the reason for the season. Not my ethnic roots.
Mary Carver says
Marisa, I’m sad to hear that you feel discouraged here. As our “about” page explains (and as we are trying to live out every day), we are here at (in)courage to build community, celebrate diversity, and become women of courage. Clearly we do not believe that celebrating diversity—as Michelle is doing here in this post, and in all of her posts that are based her personal experience and have implications for all of us—is a hurdle to also building community. I believe that when our sisters of color share their personal experiences with us, it only creates stronger bonds in the body of Christ when we can listen and learn. I’m grateful for every word Michelle shares about her experience as an Indian-American Christian woman, because it helps me understand my sisters in Christ better and also gives me a greater understanding of God.
Christmas blessings to everyone reading this website which is (in) Courage!
Beth Williams says
All Michelle is trying to say is that it can be hard to fit in when you are a bicultural child. You grow up learning about your country/nationality & the traditions they have. Then your family moves to a completely different country. She is asking the question do I have to give up my nationality’s traditions just to fit in? More than that she is saying that most traditions have nothing to do with the true reason for Christmas. Christmas is about Jesus’s birth. We should be celebrating the fact that He left the splendor of Heaven for ALL of us. It has nothing to do with racial divide. Just combining two different nationalities traditions.
It is lovely to use our gifts and enjoy shaping our holiday celebrations with our ethnic heritage. I did want to suggest that Christians seek to use more accurate terms on our ethnicity. White is not an ethnicity. And God made no white people. We are all beautiful shades of brown. With all the ancestry test kits available today it is clear that we have many mixes in our DNA as well. We all descended from Adam and Eve, and Noah and his wife. Let’s continue to celebrate the diversity of our geography and ethnicity but let’s stop using terms like black and white which really are very inaccurate! Thank you for considering this viewpoint.
Grace (what a perfect name for one who wrote these words), you’ve made an enlightening distinction. A friend’s young daughter in hearing reference to “white” people responded, “White? Does God make white people?” Her mom asked, “What color do you think you are?” Bella replied, “Peach.” Exactly. Skin color neither designates our ethnic background nor details our heritage or hardships. We each carry past experiences and history, if not from our generation, from our parents or grandparents. Language, traditions, etc. vary and assimilation has been necessary to settle into community. Whether we’re African or Swiss, can we not look past skin color to see the soul that God loved so much that He sent His Son so we might all have life abundant?
I appreciate your honesty. And can related on some levels growing up in my family and how our celebrations were different even though we had the tree and the lights and all the Christmas decorations. I so love hearing everyone’s stories that connect us as one. I hope you and your family find the true peace this Christmas. On some level, this pandemic may actually be a blessing as we distance ourselves and perhaps take time to reflect what this time of year is really all about.
I don’t think she is saying that your traditions are not genuine but that they are not the only traditions. Our ethnicities are part of us and how we understand this season. Revelation states that all nations, tribes and languages will be represented in heaven – not that we will all be the same there. We will be unified in our diversity.
There is beauty in our differences and the unity among Christians despite those differences. We should recognize how we are different and how we are the same. Recognizing should not create divisions.
Maura Michael says
What I got from today’s reading is that our American culture places material traditions over focusing on the birth of our Savior. This idea that we all need to have Christmas be this Hallamrk version where everyone and everything is perfect, instead of embracing the fact that we can joyfully celebrate in ways that may look and be different from our neighbors. As long as we all place Jesus front and center in our traditions that is what matters. As a side note, at least today’s reading got everyone to talk about differences and that in itself is a good thing because it forces us to look outside ourselves and isn’t that what scripture wants us to do?
Thanks for saying this. I remember the year my older sister tried to “Americanize” us (we’re Asian Canadian immigrants) by proposing we hang stockings – we were all confused about that concept. It didn’t stick lol, and the stockings only lasted a year! I think it’s also important to remember that Christmas “as we know it” started off as a pagan holiday in the winter, which the Christians then took over and placed Jesus’ birth story into. He was also not a white baby in a barn lol! I personally like thinking of the Solstice as the family and communal gathering time (all of our traditions and food revolve around the solstice), and Christmas is for quiet reflection and marvel – when it’s not a huge Hallmark holiday, there’s room for celebrating both God’s creation and redemption.
Dana Lynne says
Today’s post was well written, but I think it really misses the mark. Since when does Luke’s Christmas story consider racial identity with our identity in Christ? While I completely respect the writer’s viewpoint – and encourage us all to embrace our ethnic traditions – Jesus overcame racial identity, and it has no place here.
Mary Carver says
I don’t see anything wrong with Michelle sharing how Jesus affects her personally (and by “personally,” I mean in a unique way because of her background, personality, and experience). And, it absolutely has a place here at (in)courage, where our mission statement is “to build community, celebrate diversity, and become women of courage.” Michelle is sharing how she is celebrating diversity this holiday season, and I am grateful she’s courageous enough to do so.
Michele Cushatt says
I agree, Mary. I value perspectives which broaden my own. Often I don’t realize how narrow my view of the world and even this holiday is. Such a gift to sit and listen to another. Like you, I’m so grateful for Michelle’s honesty and unique story. We can all learn so much from each other.
Dana Lynne says
I completely support and encourage Michelle – and all of us – in the desire for authentic and meaningful celebration of faith. The diversity of cultures and ideas (even of other faiths) that exists in America is beautiful, and we all benefit from being part of the colorful tapestry. We ALL deserve to be respected and heard, regardless of how white or caramel our skin color is.
As I read today’s devotional and responses, the verse below came to mind. There is so much in the world today that will try to separate the body of Christ, make us see our differences, make one way right or another wrong. God created diversity. It is in all of his creation, plants, insects, animals, people. It’s all to be celebrated and loved, especially for our differences, not in spite of. We must keep this verse in our hearts.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Brenda Rodriguez de Meneses says
I loved your message today! Christmas can be so much deeper and meaningful! It’s up to us to intentionally make it unique!
How rich our celebrations may be when we embrace our cultural backgrounds!
I’m a Spanish teacher and shared this book with my students in November.
Familia Bicultural (I hope you can open the link from Epic Library)
Your story was interesting. I never thought of Christmas as a “white American holiday”. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this topic. It makes me wonder if a lot of non-Caucasian people have similar thoughts.
Michele Cushatt says
Christine, same! Thankful for voices that expand my perspective and awareness of others’ experiences. By the way, I love your openness and curiosity. It inspired and encouraged me to do the same.
Elizabeth a Hayes says
I must admit today’s message was not uplifting to me. Everyone should celebrate Christmas (or not) with the traditions they choose, in the way they choose. I feel that this continual separating ourselves out as “different” and struggling to fit into the American culture is beginning to fall on deaf ears. We all came here from immigrant families and the wonderful thing is that nobody is telling us how to celebrate this or any other holiday. In a time when we need to all see ourselves as brothers and sisters, separating ourselves by culture is not helpful in my opinion.
Elizabeth, thanks for being here. I’m sad that the post today wasn’t uplifting to you. For me, as a Korean American believer, it was incredibly uplifting to me, because Michelle’s story mirrored many of the same considerations and reflections I’ve had. Wrestling with the simple story of Jesus’ birth against a very culturally commercialized holiday is important to me each year at Christmas time. And while no one specific is currently telling me or anyone else to celebrate Christmas in a certain cultural context, the larger narrative of dominant culture in the United States is telling us that Christmas should be celebrated in Euro-centric ways and that all of those ways are the norm. Most of the normally accepted traditions here, from songs to trees, are European or have been given a European take. It’s not easy to consider a break from what’s dominant, nor is it easy to open up and share one’s personal journey, thoughts and wrestling, like Michelle did. I fully agree with you that we should be seeing each other as brothers and sisters, and believe to do so, we have to listen to, and fully see each other in all of our beautiful differences and similarities.
Ada Orie says
Thank you for a well-written piece. As a Christian Nigerian-American woman, thank you for writing this piece. I have never watched the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”. I just started watching Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies recently after I started to see people who looked liked me. I was ridiculed in Christian settings because of my race and last name. I love God’s love for us which is not limited by how we look or our family of origin. I have always celebrated Christmas by acknowledging Christ’s birth and redemption while incorporating my Nigerian and American roots. We live in a time where we need to acknowledge as the American church the numerous failures of loving one another. When one part of the body hurts, the whole body is hurt. We need to heal and love each other together and not divided. I read 1 Corinthians 13 this morning. I am reminded true and authentic love will change the world if we fully submit ourselves to each other.
Michele Cushatt says
Dear Ada, thank you for sharing your experience. Goodness, I’m sorry for the pain you’ve endured. Thank you, truly, for trusting us enough to share here. I’m so honored by your presence, sister.
Lucretia Berry says
Thank you for vulnerably sharing. I’d love to learn more about how you celebrate. I also have never watched the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I am glad to know that I am not the only one…lol.
Shalom to you.
Karen Knowles says
Well said, Andree Hidalgo! Thank you for expressing how I felt about today’s devotion. Grace, so true. Amen, Danica. Well said, Dana Lynne! On point, Elizabeth a Hayes. I have noticed that Michelle tends to mention the color of her skin nearly every time. We don’t care about that. Our unity as sisters in Christ should be the focus. Mary Carver, celebrating diversity is not the point of celebrating the birth of our Blessed Savior. That said, we are free to celebrate Christmas in whatever way we find meaningful as Christians. Continuously bringing up ethnic differences into everything as the world does is not helpful. Liz, thank you for mentioning the beautiful verse from Cor. 3:12-14. We need to focus more on unity in Christ. Joan Snowden, so well put! Our identity in Christ is most important! Denise, your comments were so right on! Thank you! May God’s love fill our hearts as we celebrate our Lord’s birth on planet earth. It’s about Him, not us!
Mary Carver says
Hey Karen, thanks for reading today. I did want to take a moment to say that here at (in)courage, we do care about the things that make our writers uniquely them—and for Michelle, one of those things is the color of her skin, her race, and her ethnicity. We’re grateful for the perspective she brings to this community and for the personal stories she shares with us. I invite you to consider caring about the things your sisters in Christ care about, as a way to care about them. And, as I mentioned in a comment earlier, our focus here at (in)courage is to build community, celebrate diversity, and become women of courage. So celebrating diversity is, indeed, part of the point. However, we can agree that the larger point of Christmas as a holiday is to celebrate Christ Himself—which I believe is beautifully and clearly communicated by Michelle’s post today.
Patricia Raybon says
It takes a lot of hard work in America to fit in if you’re not “white”—even in the church. When you try to talk about that challenge, however, many people don’t want to hear it. The response is often “Jesus doesn’t see color” or “why are we talking about this?” or “you’re adding to the racial divide.” A better response might be: tell me more. What do you want me to understand? How can I listen to your concerns? How can I love you better as a sister in Christ?
In turn, my own response should be: why do my comments bother you? Why are you offended when I reflect on my cultural differences? How can I hear your concerns better?
I’m grateful for women here who allow such discussions to take place—to be open and honest, instead of condemning. I would never tell a woman not to discuss her challenges as a female. To tell a woman of color to be quiet about her ethnicity feels uncaring and cold.
Indeed, none of us created the racial dynamic that we inherited in this world. But it is real. Thus, can we open our arms to make room for discussions about it? Ask God to help us hear one another? May God show us, indeed, how to move forward together with more understanding and love. With His peace, Patricia
Beth Williams says
AMEN sister! Well spoken. The church is sadly behind on the love thy neighbor as thyself. I’ve heard people say “they don’t want “”those”” people in their church”-usually meaning homeless or less fortunate. Huh? I thought it was God’s church & He loves everyone no matter what! Let’s try to do a better job at loving each other.
Patricia Raybon says
Thank you, dear Beth. Loving is action, indeed–and sometimes that means listening to other people. Amazing what the Lord teaches us about His world, other people, and ourselves when we do. With His peace and love.
Becky Keife says
Patricia, I’m so deeply grateful for these thoughtful and caring responses and questions you’ve given us to consider.
Patricia Raybon says
Love you, Becky! Thank you for leading and being “a woman of courage!”
Beth Williams says
Great post. I’m not a big fan of how Christmas has become so commercialized. We go from Halloween right into buying for Christmas with no mention of Thanksgiving. It’s all about the gifts we must get for everyone. I agree with you that it shouldn’t matter what traditions you enjoy during this time. Love to decorate then go ahead. Put up many lights & big trees. I’m more of a Charlie Brown type. Small tree with a few ornaments. The most important to remember is that Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday. The one who left His splendor of Heaven to come to broken Earth & die a horrible death for ALL of our sins. We should be singing Happy Birthday to you Jesus on that day.
What a wonderful, refreshing and necessary look at this aspect of worship. Thank you.
Lucretia Berry says
Your story warmed my heart! Yes!…we don’t have to decontextualize or assimilate ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus; Jesus comes for us, where we are, in our social and cultural context. Even Jesus’ social, cultural, and economic context is significant to how his story unfolds. We are no different. How can we experience the fullness of Christ without being ourselves?
Each time I read the stories you bravely share, I learn so much about the immigrant and third culture identity experience — a perspective I don’t have. I sincerely appreciate your vulnerability. God uses your stories to grow me.
I just saw a clip from the ‘Archie Bunker’ show where he yells to someone singing ‘Feliz Navidad,’ “Shut up!… God doesn’t want to hear you singing in Spanish!” Bunker’s representation of white-American (culture, language) as the default expression of Christmas humorously reminds us of how God’s expressed identity through many tribes, nations, languages, cultures, etc. is too great to be limited to one small way of knowing.
Thank you for writing, sharing, and teaching.
Shalom to you.
Kathy Francescon says
I read the devotion and all the comments, gleaning something from each one. We all came into this world, with different ethnic ancestors. The happy white people statement offended me! If anyone goes to another country or nation, wouldn’t they also find that the movies, cards, toys, and whatever else a specific holiday entails, would be centered on their particular nationality? I was taught to respect everyone! I felt very disrespected as a “white” from this article. And agree with several other ladies, that I am somehow at fault for all the ways she is feeling about our Christmas traditions because I was born white! Get in touch with Hallmark about only white people being in their movies! But don’t all of us white people for what your not happy with!
Kathy, I think you may have missed a few important words in the sentence you referred to, which I know is easy to do. I do it all the time. When Michelle mentioned, “happy white people,” she wrote “stories from happy white people,” and it was a comment about what’s portrayed in the media as normal and good when it comes to American Christmas traditions. For many of us who are not white, but just as American as our white brothers and sisters, not seeing ourselves reflected in American Christmas stories, activities and the like, is not only confusing, it’s damaging. Our nation is full of many colors and ethnicities. Most of the dominant Christmas traditions that are expressed and assumed to be normal in our culture come from European traditions – and while they are no doubt beautiful, that doesn’t mean they are better or that other Americans (especially those without European roots) need to adopt them. I think we can agree that the commercialization of Christmas in our culture really doesn’t have anything to do with the real story of Jesus’ birth. Michelle didn’t say that you or any other white person was at fault for anything, or that you should or shouldn’t celebrate and honor Jesus’ birth or not keep specific traditions – rather, that it’s okay for us and perhaps good for all of us to examine them and refocus our attention on Jesus and his love expressed for us and all of details (even skin color and heritage). Isn’t it wonderful that he loves us so fully, so specifically, and cares about every part of who we are – and who God divinely decided we should be? We don’t have to be afraid of the questions and stories of others, or assume it’s an attack on us. Maybe we can assume that a personal story shared is an invitation to let us see the inside of a heart, and respond in love.
Kathy Francescon says
An after thought, I am Caucasian, the label white is offensive to me, just as other “color labels” are to others.
Michelle, once again I am inspired, challenged and grateful for you sharing your personal story with us. I resonated with your post in light of my own multicultural heritage and things I’ve experienced. I love learning about how different families incorporate different traditions at the holidays. I believe we were all created in God’s image, and He invites us to express our diversity, which He created. I especially appreciated your closing invitation to share stories of God’s faithfulness to all of us and to celebrate with our own tongue, culture, and values. I read your story to my family at dinner last night and together we brainstormed more ways we can do that this year!