It’s Not What You Think: What Is Boxing Day?

There are no days of celebration between Christmas Day and New Year’s. It’s only right, as a week in between two festive days should be enough time to rest. That, however, is not true. Boxing Day

With such a name, it’s easy to think that Boxing Day is about two people knocking each other out. Thankfully, that’s not what it is. If you’re curious as to what the true meaning of Boxing Day is, whether you’re from the United States or a modern Christian church in Dubai, go ahead and read on.

British Beginnings

Because of its obscurity, not much is known about the true origin of Boxing Day. What is known, however, is that it was originally celebrated in Great Britain during the Middle Ages, and later on, in extension, in its colonies such as Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

According to some historians, the day came about because servants had to work during Christmas Day but took the following day off. And before the servants went back to their respective families, as a sign of both goodwill and recompense, employers gave them gift boxes, thus the name of the holiday. Later on, Boxing Day became a holiday wherein people gave presents to mailmen, tradesmen, porters, and doormen who had worked for the previous year.

In addition, ever since 1871, the British government declared Boxing Day as one of the country’s bank holidays, which are days when government offices, the post offices, and as the name suggests, banks have a day off; making it a perfect day to recover from all that holiday festivities and be ready for work the next.

The First Martyr

Another possible theory for the name of the holiday is because long ago, there were boxes placed outside churches. They are where church attendees would leave coins for the poor. And on December 26, the day after Christmas, they were distributed to the needy. Fitting, considering that the 26th day of December is also the Feast of Saint Stephen. And while it may not seem that Saint Stephen is related to Boxing Day in any day whatsoever, save the fact that the day of his feast coincides with that of Boxing Day, it’s nevertheless interesting to look at his life and death.

During the days of the early Christian Church, Stephen was one of the seven deacons who were ordained by the apostles to look after widows and the needy. And aside from taking care of the less fortunate, Stephen’s lectures were delivered with so much wisdom and grace that the enemies of the early Church had a plot to kill him, which later on succeeded. His legacy, however, survives his death, as he has become one of the greatest examples of love for God and the impoverished.

Whether you celebrate Boxing Day or not, we wish a happy Boxing Day to you! May the lingering spirit of Christmas and today’s holiday fill you with cheer and give you a heart for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Light of the World: Jesus Christ

The Christmas season is upon us, and inevitably, celebrations abound. It’s the one time of year where people can come together with their loved ones and enjoy the festivities, and no matter where they’re from – whether it’s from a non-denominational church in Dubai or a traditional church from wherever else – as long as the belief and joy in Jesus Christ’s birth is present, then fun and togetherness is all but guaranteed.

Unfortunately, this is not true for everybody. While Christmas is customarily known to be a joyous occasion, sometimes certain things prevent us from enjoying it to the fullest – oftentimes, these distractions even go as far as to detract us from the true meaning of Christmas – which is of course, the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

The Happening

Christmas can be both a wonderful and terrible affair depending on who you’re with, but that’s just the problem – it shouldn’t be that way. Ideally, this season should be enjoyable, after all, Jesus Christ brings everyone along. However, sometimes the moment we get together with our friends and family, instead of being ecstatic and looking forward to the time we’ll finally get to spend with them, we end up feeling like we have to “deal with them” instead.

Our supposedly joyous thoughts are clouded with the problems they’ve brought with them, how we can’t control their actions and prevent conflict, or even how they set expectations we can never meet. But if one looks closely, the problem actually lies in us ourselves – we’re the ones who bring up our own problems, we’re the ones who can’t control ourselves, and most especially – we’re the ones who set expectations others can’t meet.

That said, we have to learn not to center this event on ourselves and the people around us. We have to stop concentrating so much on what’s happening, but rather, we must focus our attention more on what happened – again, the birth of Christ – and its significance to the human race.

Centering Life on Jesus

By centering our life on Jesus instead of the scattered happenings around us, we end up centralizing on something stable; something that can be counted on. Jesus is hopeful, someone who can give us purpose; He takes away the fears we have. In addition, by centering our life on Him, Christmas becomes much brighter as we are reminded that he is for us, watching over us, celebrating with us.

The darker and more complicated things get, take comfort in the fact that we’re able to focus on the light of the world that makes a sensible difference in each of our lives.

At the start of the new testament, followers like Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about the birth of Jesus Christ. Curiously, John does not – not directly, anyway. Rather than describe his birth in detail, he describes its significance instead.

John 1:4-5 states that:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Despite living in desperately rough times, John was able to see the light and never lose faith. Early on he was able to realize that Jesus was a kind of life that transcended the physical, which is supported by the following verses:

According to John 20:30-31:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus is the light

Again, Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas – not the people around us. He is the bright light in the darkness; no matter what we face – be it strong heart ache, extreme fear, or a deep depression – he will be there to guide us. And no matter how hard the world tries to envelop Him in darkness, He will always shine through; ready to give us hope and a reason to believe; He’s always there to listen to our prayers and He gives us reason to wake up each day and take that next step.

Life with God: Being Christian in the Middle East

Although the Middle East has been dominated by believers of the Islamic faith for centuries, Christianity continues to be a visible, audible presence in the region. And rightfully so, for it is the birthplace of one of the world’s biggest religions.

The faithful, whether they’re from a Catholic church in Iraq or a non-denominational church in Dubai, not only preach and live the word of God in the Middle East, but also live in harmony with Islamic and Jewish people.

Take a peek at the colorful and blessed lives of Christians in the Middle East – a place rife with culture and diversity.

High Five

As of 2014, 5% of the total population in the Middle East has been comprised of Christians. While definitely considered as low, making the denomination considered as a minority, if you see it in actual numbers instead of the percentage that would be 148.9 million people – more than enough to be a big country of its own, and definitely more than enough to be an influence and make a change.

By the Percentages

Christians all over the Middle East are spread in different countries in small yet varying numbers, save Lebanon, a predominantly Christian country which has 31-41% of the population under the religion.

In Iraq, a country torn by the unwelcome occupations and the threat of terror groups, Christians make up less than 1% of the population. Same goes with the West Bank in Gaza Strip, which has a less than 2% Christian population because of the conflict with Israel. On the other hand, Syria, despite the violence, retains a Christian population of 5-9%.

Other Middle East countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates have Christian populations that play between 5-20%.

Beyond the Numbers

However, to truly appreciate the presence of Christianity in the Middle East, one should not just rely on statistics, as there is more to a faith than the number of its followers.

How they live and what they have done, especially in respect to the fact that they are a minority, that they are surrounded by people of different faith than them.

Aside from collaborating with different Christian denominations within the city, Christians have not only been able to live in harmony with followers of other faiths, especially Islam, but also have helped people who are in need. Take Mission to Seafarers for example, a charity organization that gives aid to troubled seafarers regardless of race and religion – a testimony of how God’s universal love should be. Because of the good work they have been doing, they have been receiving funding and support from many organizations with different backgrounds, with most of it coming from Muslim Emiratis.

Another noteworthy characteristic of Christianity in Dubai is in its unity. Although churches are built in divided plots of land and have their entrances facing away from one another, they are becoming more and more united and have begun working with people from other religions to make Dubai a better city.

Christianity may be the biggest religion in the world, but definitely not in the Middle East. However, it’s not always the numbers that matter. After all, the faith is more than just casting nets; it’s also about being the light and salt of the world.