In many Chinese Christians' minds, Christmas is a major holiday which is like the traditional Chinese Spring Festival, a main holiday with symbolic significance.
Christmas does not only take a significant position in Christians’ minds but also catches the attention of businessmen because merchants can make a profit through promoting sales during the season. So when Christmas is approaching and each church is preparing evangelistic dramas, preaching the gospel, gifts, baptism, and courses for seekers; shopping malls are also busy with promotions and discounts, innovations, and various cultural performances. In terms of attracting people's attention, the Church's Christmas promotion is obviously far weaker than that of merchants.
In the Church, Christmas is celebrated every year and Christmas performances are arranged every year. Although the Chinese phrase "every year is like today" is used for blessing the hearer, the phrase would otherwise best be used to describe a church’s Christmas decoration - the yearly Christmas celebrations are in exactly the same model. Not only are Christmas evangelistic plays the same, but also the sermons. Even those who perform the celebration shows are the same faces for over a decade.
Originally, under the religious atmosphere of Christmas, there was true worshiping of God and feelings for Jesus. However, as time goes by, if the form of the celebration hasn’t been changed, the whole event will truly be a ‘form’ only. This is the same as those who preach the gospel without seeking the effect but just rushing to complete the due task. The purpose of preaching has shifted from meaningfulness to a form so that the participants are losing the will to change. However, compared with the Church which follows a form rather than the meaning, merchants are the most attentive carrier of Christmas messages. No matter form or connotation, they come up with new ideas every year.
Why is there such a big gap between churches and businesses? The reason is that different pursuits lead to diversity.
Businessmen bring forth new ideas, and by Christmas, they are like fully-equipped soldiers prepared for battle because they are looking for profits and they are interested in the business opportunities brought by Christmas. In terms of profit, merchants also follow the output ratio. The more investment, the higher the profit. For this purpose, merchants naturally spend all their money on Christmas advertising and promotion. All the staff in the shopping malls wear Christmas clothes and hats, draw big prizes, perform Christmas dramas and so on. The purpose of coming up with new ideas is to attract people by making them feel happy and peaceful with a desire to purchase items and improve the sales figures.
As for churches, they are different from merchants. They do not pursue commercial profits, so they have no profit. They have their own church. They think that they can't change the sanctity of the gospel in order to attract people like shopping malls, and they can't adopt the same way as shopping malls in order to create an atmosphere of consumption. Therefore, unlike shopping malls, they do nothing. The reason they give is that Christmas in shopping malls is secular. They are waiting for God to harvest everything.
It was the Church that threw away the sowing in the process of trying to avoid secularization leaving only God with a sickle and sighing at the overgrown fields.
The church can't be like a shopping mall, and in the end, the church is not like a church.
From not wanting to be kidnapped by secularized merchants, the Church has rejected all Christmas forms adopted by society and developed a Christmas form that has no Christmas connotations, which is the current status of Christianity. This anti-secularization tendency of Christianity eventually turns to the opposite side.
Form and connotation are different, and sometimes the form is even independent. A church plays the hymns using a piano, which is also used for commercial performances in shopping malls; the hymns sung in the church are similar to the music played in those shopping malls; the electronic devices used in churches are the same as those used in shopping malls. Whether it's piano, musical notes, or sound, it's a form that everyone can use. That's the case. So why doesn't a church share the gospel in a popular form?
In today’s world young people like to see and hear things in new and modern ways; express the predicament of the times with acceptable drama; in the way of jokes, ridicule the life that is inferior to form, which can be used in the church at Christmas. The church is not only sacred and solemn.
Shopping malls try their best to attract people, so what reason does the church have to shut out people who want to come in? Shopping malls pursue profit. Why can't the church pursue the benefit of the gospel? If you want more people to know the gospel, you must let more people enter the church. If you want more people to believe in the gospel, you must let them know the true meaning of the gospel. In shopping malls, it is to increase the quality of goods at reasonable prices. Why can't we increase the quality and touching gospel works in churches?
Jesus reminded us of the example of the three servants. The first servant earned 5,000 extra talents from the original 5,000 talents he had received from the master. While the one who took 1,000 and returned 1,000 should be punished. Those of us who only pay attention to the form and neglect the connotation of Christmas preparation is no different from the servant who finally returned the 1000 talents intact. Like that punished servant, we are trying to cope with Christmas tasks not to spread the gospel of God.
At present, Christmas is approaching, and those churches who have brought out last year's outfits should consider changing their form and content, and let some new faces, new images, and new forms appear on the Christmas stage of the church, and let the church also plant some new crops to honour Jesus who was crucified for us.
O churches, you can bear the heavy responsibility of the gospel!
- Translated by Charlie Li