Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Day as “Good Governance Day” Controversy In India

            This December, the Indian academia was notified by the Indian government to organize several activities (essay, quiz competitions and documentary screenings)1 on December 25th to observe ‘Good Governance Day.’ These activities, according to the government mandate, should be photographed and recorded as a proof of compliance. 2

            This implied that schools and colleges should work on Christmas day. Thereby a Christian child (and of course the parents too) would be denied an opportunity to worship and enjoy reminiscing the Lord’s birth as a family.

            Any ardent Christian would ponder the reason behind the sudden choice of December 25th by the government of India to observe ‘Good Governance.’ The government’s choice of December 25th was to honor the birthday of Mr. A.B Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, who was born on the same day. He belongs to the party that presently governs India.

            Justifiably the National Council for Churches in India (NCCI), the apex body of Protestant and Orthodox churches in India representing 14 million Indian citizens, registered their protest against the government action through a letter to the Indian Prime Minister. Their letter read, “Your government has been telling the people that good days are going to come. However, we are alarmed at the way the good days are sought to be introduced. They appeared to be ushered in at the cost of social, economic and religious minorities and vulnerable sections of the society… It is asserted that that your government wants to celebrate it as Good Governance Day. The implication of such a celebration is that government offices, educational institutions etc would have to function that day showing scant respect to the holy day of the Christians, Christmas…” 3

            Evidently, neither the NCCI nor the average Christian dislikes the concept of ‘good governance.’ But the contention of every Christian is the choice of the day on which that noble concept was preferred to be observed. Why did the government of India choose the Christmas day to observe good governance?

            Since then, the Indian government has issued revised notifications to the Indian academia to wrap up Good Governance Day events before December 25th and that the compliance report is not mandatory. 4

            However, this question remains intact; was the initial notification of the Indian government aimed against the Christians? Instead of deliberating over the government’s intent, we may as well ask, how should Christians respond if they are denied holiday on Christmas day?

Communicate the Disappointment Peacefully

            A formal and a peaceful communication, such as the one lodged by NCCI, is valuable. This is apt, for the ruling government in a democracy should not deny any religious community, especially the minority, of its religious privileges.  

Disappointment as Legitimate Response

            How would the other religious communities respond if their holy days are made working days by the ruling government? How would the Muslim community respond if ‘Prophet’s birthday’ was ruled a working day on account of a noble governance concept? How would the Hindu community respond if ‘Diwali’ or another more important holy day was ruled a working day on account of a noble governance concept?

            One could reasonably infer that these communities would be disappointed as well. Disappointment is a default human response upon curtailment of a privilege. Therefore, it’s indeed reasonable for a Christian to be disappointed when our privileges are curtailed in a democracy.

Why Celebrate Only On December 25th?

            In the event of such disruptions, we may as well think of alternate options.

            Why not celebrate Christmas on another day, maybe December 24th or December 26th or the Sunday that’s before or after December 25th?  The Bible’s silence on the precise date of Christ’s birth indicates that the event of Christ’s birth is more important than the date of the Lord’s birth. 

            If a Christian family is keen on celebrating Christmas together, then this is a viable option. If any action is aimed at disturbing the peace of a Christian mind, then the Christian mind should find ways to remain at peace without compromising its religious position.

We Can Remain Without Celebrating on December 25th

            Consider Indians living in the Middle East as a case in point.

            Many travel to the Middle East to make a living – a wealthier and a comfortable one at that. In the Middle East (or in a similar scenario), Christians are expected to work on any day other than the stipulated weekly and national holidays. Therefore, working on Christmas or Easter is a normal routine for the Christian who lives in the Middle East.

            The Christian family in the Middle East makes do with a family dinner on Christmas day or celebrates Christmas on another day. The Christian in this situation refrains from protesting against the Islamic government for not declaring Christmas as a national holiday, for the Islamic nation is not his native country. He simply trudges along, for sustaining his wealth and comfort seems more appropriate than demanding a mere holiday albeit for religious reasons.

            Or consider a country that curbs the existence of a Christian church. In this scenario, the Christian should not celebrate Christmas outside the precincts of his home. But the core religious factors of not celebrating Christmas or worshipping the Lord in the local church does not prevent the Christian from taking up employment in that country.

            Therefore, it is indeed possible to not celebrate Christmas on 25th.

Christmas Is Celebrated In Our Hearts

            The Lord Jesus Christ reigns in the heart and mind of every Christian. While celebrating these important occasions in the company of the family or the church community is indeed significant, it is of paramount importance to celebrate the Lord’s presence – HIS birth, death and resurrection in our hearts and minds.

            Christmas is the celebration of our Savior’s first-coming into the world to save us from our sins. We are eternally saved when we believe in Jesus. This is a matter of great joy. This joy should occupy our hearts until our last breath.  

            If Christ reigns in our hearts and if our hearts are filled with joy then none can or should take that joy away. This joy remains irrespective of our ability to celebrate Christmas.

            Although we remain joyous, we ought to grieve. We grieve for those who do not believe in Jesus. While we grieve, we pray that those who do not believe in Christ would believe the Lord Jesus Christ. None should take this prayer away from us.

            Since Christianity is primarily an inward disposition of a heart to the Lord Jesus, a Christian should be able to work or study on any given day, thereby denying trials and tribulations the chance to destroy his peace.

            Nothing can separate the believer from HIS Lord. Nothing should destroy the peace that Christ offers to us.

            That Christians should submit to the governing authorities is mandated in the Bible (Romans 13: 1). In the very same verse, the Bible says that governing authorities have been established by God.

            The Bible asserts that the governing authorities should hold no terror to those who are doing right (Romans 13: 3, NIV). Even if governing authorities fail to do the right, we should do the right albeit without compromising our religious position.

            If Christians are denied the privilege of worshipping and reminiscing the Lord’s birth on Christmas day, we should continue doing the right. And in doing the right, we will be blessed by God for the Bible teaches that we should bless those who curse us (Luke 6: 28).

            So may the joy of the Lord’s birth increase in our hearts as we seek to serve HIM alone during this Christmas season and always. May the incomparable power of God rest and abide upon every Christian who genuinely seeks and serves Christ so that we will remain peaceful and joyous even during trials and tribulations. May this world know and believe in the Lord Jesus as their God and savior.

            A blessed Christmas to you and yours! Amen.





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