“If you could celebrate Christmas in a different country, what would it be?”

Honored to offer a response to the question “If you could celebrate Christmas in a different country, what would it be? “ in the “Voices of Faith” column in The Kansas City Star on Sat., December 19. http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article50289725.html

“Voices of Faith” Column for The Kansas City Star – December 19, 2015

To celebrate Christmas in a land other than one’s own is extraordinarily hard to fathom, given the powerful attachments of sentiment, custom, family, friends and beautifully particular, home-specific rituals.

But worse still would be not trying to imagine the Yuletide gifts and graces of other locales. Christmas always holds more wondrous blessings than any one place can contain.

Mexico would certainly be one of the places where my soul could find spiritual nourishment at Christmastime. The tradition of “Las Posadas,” a nine-day festival portraying the Holy Family seeking shelter and being turned away in one place after another, shows God’s indefatigable spirit, which will be undeterred until humanity finally receives the divine gift of incarnational love.

England also attracts my fancy, since its genius musicians originated some of the most beloved Christmas compositions. Charles Wesley and Handel, alone, distinguish Britain as a Christmas music epicenter.

Italy pulls equally strongly on my Christmas heartstrings because of St. Francis’ holy audacity in creating what is understood to have been the first “Living Nativity” scene.

But perhaps it is Egypt that has a special allure for me and possibly many others this Christmas. For it was in Egypt, according to the gospel of Matthew, that Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, refugees all, experienced safe harbor in a brutish and brutalizing world.

Two millennia later, could Christians, especially those of us in the U.S., learn key, saving lessons about the Christmas spirit and the essence of holy hospitality from our ancient, non-Christian, Egyptian exemplars?

– Bob Hill, Minister Emeritus, Community Christian Church, KCMO

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