The other day I posted something on my Facebook that lots of people liked. I posted some photos of us making cookies with some friends from Burma. The feeling I got was that it was not the photos themselves that was the big attraction. It was the comment I wrote with the pictures. This is what I wrote:
“Today we had a dear family from Chin state, Burma over to make cookies with us. We shared different traditions and stories from our countries. Our friends said: ‘Here in Norway people are not so interested in community. But they are very interested in buying things for Christmas. In our country our whole village gets together to celebrate Christmas together. We sing Christmas carols and make nice food together. We miss our country when it is Christmas time here in Norway. We often feel lonely at Christmas time.’ We have so much to learn.”
It made me think of studying the Thai language many years ago, and realizing that some of the words one learns first are the words for together, and for having a good time together. I have not studied the Chin language, but it would surprise me if that was not the case for them and for so many of the other people groups in Burma as well. Stuff is overrated. We get it, we put it away, and next year we have forgotten what it was we got. But community and fellowship is something that will stay with us forever.
During these hectic times before Christmas when we are trying so hard to remember all the gifts we need to get and wrap and put name tags on, and all the food we need to get and make, and all the letters and cards we should send, I wish we would be better at stopping and looking for the ones who are lonely and who can enrich our lives with theirs.
But I am not only thinking about Christmas. I am thinking of the value of togetherness all around, all year long. I am thinking of the value of community in a world that seems to focus more and more on self.
Laws are passed to give the individual more freedom. Choices are made based on what the individual want. But less and less I see politicians, lawmakers and individuals ask: Is what I/we want also what is the best for our community? More often than that, I see and hear: Give me what I want and screw the rest.
Could it be that the commercialism of Christmas is our world in miniature? Could it be that in the noise of hearing our own crazy wishes that we think will make us happy, we have overpowered the voice of Jesus who said: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15, 12-13.
Could it be that it is from the people who have fled their homeland and who are living as resettled refugees are the ones who have gotten it right, and that it is them we should listen to, not the commercials on TV, or the leaders who are promising prosperity and low taxes?
I know what the answer is for me.