by James Merritt

Away in a Manger
James Merritt
Luke 2:1-7


1. I want to share with you three stories that take place in three different nations that illustrate a central truth about Christmas. The headline read ''japan goes wild for ho-ho holiday.'' a nation, made up almost entirely of Shinto and Buddhist believers, has taken to celebrating ''kurisumasu'' with the heartiest of ho-ho-hos. The season is marked by extravagant gift-giving, with shoppers lined up for blocks outside of expensive department stores.

Red-garbed choirs give enthusiastic if uncertain voice to ''hark the herald angels sing'' and other Christmas carols, in downtown Tokyo. In residential sections nearly every doorway bears a Christmas wreath or a smiling Santa Claus.

Yet, no one seems to have a clue why Christmas is celebrated at all in a nation where Christians account for less than one percent of the population. Nevertheless, only new year's is as popular a holiday among Japanese as Christmas.

A telling comment is made by hatsuko yamauchi, a seventy-five year old homemaker who has happily celebrated Christmas for several decades. He said, ''I do not know what Christmas is all about. My daughters heard about it and wanted us to celebrate, so we put a Christmas tree in the living room, a flower pot shaped like Santa in the entryway, and have a nice time. Isn't that what Christmas should be-having a warm time with your family?''

2. Now the next story comes from the nation of Israel. On December 25, 1990, Christmas day, Israel passed a law stating that no messianic Jew could immigrate to Israel and become a legalized citizen. Messianic Jews rest on the Sabbath, they keep kosher, they fast on Yom Kippur, and yet they have been declared persona non grata in the nation they would call their own.

3. Now at the bottom of the dispute is the law of return, which guarantees citizenship to all the world's Jews. This law defines a Jew as someone born to a Jewish mother, or someone wh ...

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