It’s been a while, but here is the text from my Christmas Eve sermon. Feel free to offer feedback.
In the Middle of it All
I. The Gospel Story and a Singing Santa
In the country of Turkey, 99% of the population is Muslim. Needless to say, not many Turks celebrate Christmas. However, Christmas tradition is migrating over to Istanbul in Turkey. If you were to walk down the main streets of Istanbul you would see shop windows decorated with garland and tinsel, Christmas trees decorated with ornaments on the streets and in homes, and even men dressed as Santa Claus selling lottery tickets.
One woman was buying gifts and decorations for a party: she has a tree at her apartment and she was on the hunt for more ornaments–and a Santa Claus. That is the biggest selling item this Christmas in Istanbul–and even in New Delhi, India–an electronic singing Santa Claus. You know the kind–they spontaneously break out in a “ho, ho, ho” and begin singing Jingle Bells.
I’ve had bad experiences with these sorts of things–especially the kind with motion sensors. I remember staying at a friend’s house and searching for a bathroom in the middle of the night and walking in the wrong room only to be greeted by a chorus of Billy Bass singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and being insulted by a plastic deer head hanging on the wall. I almost didn’t need to find the restroom after that!
All I could think of was Jeff Foxworthy in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour movie: If you own more than three of these things, you might be a redneck! (Don’t worry about that, if you were to walk in my back yard right now you would think that I embodied all of the Jeff Foxworthy sayings!)
But that’s what’s selling right now in Istanbul–singing Santa Clauses. A reporter spoke to a man in Istanbul that was purchasing one of these Singing Santa Clauses and asked him if he had a Christmas tree. The man replied: “Yes of course we have a tree at home and we decorate it and…but the truth is we don’t know what really Christmas is. I like it. I enjoy it but we don’t know what the true meaning of it is.”
In the middle of all of the tradition, in the middle of trees, ornaments, garland, and singing Santa Clauses, this Turkish man isn’t quite sure why he was celebrating Christmas. You can even hear a hint of longing in his voice: why? I desperately want to know why are we doing this? I know it is special, but why are we doing this? What is the meaning of it all?