I, Larry Dinkins, stayed in a Bangkok Hotel and was amazed to find a Christmas tree had been put up in the lobby since early November (long before my Thai church put up their tree). When I asked the manager the meaning of the tree, I received the same response that I have received for the last 42 years of my ministry with the Thai, “I don’t know.”
You see Christmas trees in most every mall and many businesses around Thailand during this season. I always get a kick out of hearing “Jingle Ben” playing over a loudspeaker as I shop. The Thai associate Christmas trees with “Farang Pi Mai” (Foreign New Year) and they especially like the idea of decorating with bright lights and the giving of presents. Also, many have been invited to Christmas celebrations in churches where they hear the Christmas story of the Jesus being born in a manger. For the Thai, the baby Jesus lying in a manger is a much more acceptable and less threatening portrayl of Christianity than when we celebrate Easter with its emphasis of Jesus dying as an adult on a wooden cross. It is unfortunate that the Thai equate Christianity with a Christmas tree, rather than the tree on which He was crucified. The positive aspect of Christmas is that it acts as a conversation bridge to deeper discussions of the real reason why Jesus was born as a man on earth. Pray that Thai churches will take full advantage of the many opportunities there are to share the good news not only of Jesus birth, but also of His death, burial and resurrection.