by Paul Olver, Latin America
Driving from the airport to our hotel in Alajuela, Costa Rica, we passed by a supermarket and shopping center all decorated for Christmas. And this was the end of October! When I commented, the district leader Pastor Victor said, “Oh, these decorations have been up for a month already.”
As we traveled around Costa Rica it was disorienting to see northern Christmas decorations in a hot and humid setting. It seemed out of context to see pine garlands in a land of palm trees, cardboard snowmen where people have never seen snow, and Santa dressed in fur-lined clothes at the beach where everyone is in shorts and tank tops.
The cast of characters was exported from the North for the sake of marketing. Frosty the Snowman or Santa, complete with elves and reindeer, are all about attracting shoppers and boosting year-end sales. A huge billboard along the highway in Alajuela showed a couple decorating a Christmas tree with piles of gifts underneath. The message read: “This Christmas, don’t restrain yourself; give in to all your impulses.”
How unfortunate that what American culture has exported to other countries includes consumerism, materialism and me-ism. This spirit is the opposite of Christmas!
I’ll resist the overused phrases of “keep Christ in Christmas” or “the real reason for the season.” Whether here or there – in the U.S. or in Latin America – let’s seize the opportunity to share the unadulterated Christmas story. In Jesus, God came to His world to usher in His upside down kingdom, to restore a broken world. Jesus came to save us from consumerism, materialism and me-ism. Let’s export this message to Latin America!