Westerners and many Chinese know that Christmas comes around every year on December 25th. We are reminded of its coming by the Christmas decorations we see in different places. However, many are not aware that in Britain, Canada, other Commonwealth countries and even still in Hong Kong today (because it was a British colony), the day after Christmas, December 26th, is celebrated as Boxing Day. In Britain, the practice was initially about allowing servants to visit their families on the day after Christmas since they had to work on Christmas day. Their employers would send along with them a small box containing gifts, some money, and sometimes even some Christmas day leftover food. Today the practice is about showing appreciation for those who serve as well as those who are less fortunate.
For centuries in Europe, small boxes containing gifts or some money have been given to the poor and needy on Boxing Day. This tradition goes back to the Middle Ages and possibly further. The idea of a box may have come from alms boxes in churches that were used to collect money for the poor. It may also have come from late Roman or early Christian era in which boxes were placed outside the church for special offerings that were tied to the Feast of St. Stephen, which in the Western Church calendar is the same date as Boxing Day, December 26th. Remember, Stephen was one of seven church deacons in the New Testament chosen to take care of the needs of the widows and orphans in the church. Therefore the spirit of Boxing Day is about justice: helping those in need, doing what seems right, and alleviating suffering, dealing with an injustice issue.
This has reminded me of something I saw at one of the Three-Self churches where I live. The provincial seminary in this province, along with training leaders for the church's ministry, also owns a fairly large farm adjacent to its property. The farm is totally organic. All of the grain crops and vegetables are grown without chemicals or pesticides. Raising the chickens, pigs, cows, and sheep that are on the farm is done so without any chemical inputs. The organic farm supplies the seminary community with flour, grain, vegetables, meat, milk, and eggs that are totally organic. The decision was to go completely organic out of a concern for the environment and the health of the consumer. Leaders in the church who have given vision and oversight to this farm have said that food safety is a real issue in China.
Whatever the farm produces and is not needed by the seminary is brought to the city. One of the Three-Self churches in the city receives the excess flour, pork, and vegetables needed to make Chinese dumplings. These dumplings are made by a special team of women in the church who see it as a ministry they can be involved in. The church takes the ready-made dumplings to seniors and senior care centers connected with the church. It also sells its dumplings from out of the church as a way of outreach and a service to the community. The women have said that as Christians, we must be careful to take care of the environment. We also want to have a good witness as the church. We want people to eat good, healthy, natural food; food without chemicals. When I visited the church and saw the equipment and facilities of the little "dumpling factory", I saw first-hand how they were made. The women making them had such joy in what they were doing.
Boxing Day comes once a year and focuses on the community and those less fortunate, issues involving justice. Our Christian faith needs to be more than just a private activity. It needs to engage with the greater world. As Christians, we are Jesus' hands and feet in the world. We need to show those around us that the Gospel message is also about justice, caring for the environment, helping those in need, being concerned about the community. Only then will those who are not yet followers of Jesus be attracted to a faith that is not just about salvation, heaven, and the next life but also about a healthy and happy world in the here and now.
Courtesy of China Christian Daily