I was decorating the academic support office this week when I was struck with a dilemma. Much of the greetings, decorations, etc. of Chinese New Year focuses on wealth, prosperity, success……basically, earthly things. Besides, some of the Chinese traditions, such as eating fish in order to have an abundance for years to come because of a Chinese idiom, seem simply superstitious.
In addition, while I am a huge cat fan, I’ve felt a little bit uncomfortable putting up the “beckoning prosperity cat” erasers that I had bought from Party City to decorate with because it is–let’s face it– an idol much like the golden calf. While I wanted to share my native culture, I had no wish to compromise the faith with it.
1 Corinthians 12:2 : “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.”
While I was contemplating these things, I started developing a gradually more optimistic perspective. I knew that many Chinese missionaries and evangelists still celebrated Chinese New Year, so there had to be Biblical principles that could be used.
…I wanted to make a stretch that the Chinese zodiac this year is fairly Biblical since it is the sheep/ram/goat, and we are all lambs of God. (I understand that there are some IQ differences between sheep and goats, as I have formerly identified with the latter.)
However, I came up with a list of 5 things that we can use to enable this holiday for us to grow closer to God.
1. Biblical Model of Community:
Unlike Christmas Day, a holiday that is traditionally celebrated in homes, Chinese New Year is celebrated at home and outside of the home. In fact, some of my international Chinese friends were alarmed when everything was closed for Christmas when restaurants and places are open during the new Year in China. Nevertheless, this is still a good holiday to visit relatives or plan a small group fellowship event, even if you aren’t Chinese.
Use Chinese New Year as an invitation to invite people you don’t normally interact with into community. While this may seem daunting, you never know how God will work through you.
I have an example. While I have used opportunities to share Chinese food in the past, I brought some authentic Chinese snacks in the office to not to encourage people to try things, but mostly because they had good packaging that made them look like good decorations. The funny thing is people tried a lot of things, even when I wasn’t around to explain to them what it was.
2. Pray for God’s Will to be Glorified In Others’ Lives Instead of for Worldly Successes
a. Instead of simply wishing for our loved ones to have enormous wealth and phenomenal success, let us pray for them to have peace and the joy of serving God this coming year.
b. For nonbelievers in our family, let us pray that they will start to seek the sweetest gift of salvation that is better than anything prosperous on this earth.
1 Timothy 2:4 “Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
3. Start a giving campaign with what would otherwise be “red envelope” money.
In Chinese tradition, the younger generation often receive money in red envelopes after giving some well-wishes to elders. (My friend and I joked that this would be a great office event to do since some of the coworkers are significantly older than us.)
Some of my friends have done birthday for a cause campaigns on One Day’s Wages website, where they encourage people to donate money to a charity cause instead of buying them a birthday gift. You can set up an idea for a cause project campaign here.
4. Use this holiday as a celebration of the blessings God has created for you in the past year.
This is an opportunity for us to share our praises for what the Lord has done in our lives in the past year. To practice this, refer to my post about an exercise I did to be happy from an article I read.
5. Pray for China….enough said.
I have been blessed to know a few Chinese students who were introduced to Christianity while in China through expatriate families who taught English and often invited students over to their homes. Still, this process is still very challenging for those who are not affiliated with state-approved churches in China, like the Chinese underground church.
1 Corinthians 10:31
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
This is an opportune time to reflect on our lives since Chinese New Year has come on the foothill of Ash Wednesday, but in the meantime, check out New Life Church, which is hosting a Chinese New Year event over the weekend.
In the meantime, worship with us at Inbound Church <–Click!
You know we are festive enough :P.