By Kenneth D. MacHarg
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
I saw an interesting sign in Atlanta a few weeks ago. It was out front of a lot where they were going to sell Christmas trees, and it said, “Without a traditional tree, it’s not Christmas.”
My response was: What? Wait a minute. A traditional Christmas tree is what makes or breaks Christmas?
I don’t think so!
A number of years ago I ran into my friend Pablo on the street in Quito, Ecuador where we were living at the time.
Pablo Camuendo is a Quichua Indian. These people, known as Quichua in Ecuador and Quechua in Bolivia and Peru, are descendants of the Inca Indians who were part of a vast empire that stretched from northern Chile and ran up the high Andes mountains through Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador on into southern Colombia. These are the ones who built the massive mountain jungle town of Machu Picchu.
Since it was just before Christmas, I asked Pablo what he and his family would be doing.
“Well,” he said, “On Christmas eve we take off work at noon, so we’ll go home. We’ll play some fútbol (that’s not football, but fútbol—in other words, soccer). “Then we’ll eat a meal with our (extended) family and go to church to worship God and thank him for sending Cristo Jesús (Jesus Christ).”
“That sounds wonderful,” I said. “What about Christmas day. What will you do then?”
“Well,” he said, “We’ll get up and go to church to worship God and thank him for sending Cristo Jesús (Jesus Christ). Then we’ll go home and eat a big dinner with our family (extended family). Then the women will visit and the men and boys will play fútbol.”
I asked him if they would be doing anything else for the season, and he said no.
What about decorating the house, would they be putting up a tree and decorating? “Oh no,” he said. “We just celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
Didn’t they send Christmas cards? “No, we don’t do that either. We just celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
Well, would they be giving each other or the children gifts? “No, we don’t do that. We just celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
How simple, yet how profound.
A small community of Otavalan Indians, who at that time had been evangelized for only 20 years, simply but profoundly celebrating Christmas by thanking God for sending Jesus Christ.
Nothing more, nothing less.
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