How to Share Christmas with Buddhists

Scott checks out the pile of presents the students have brought to exchange with each other.Do you have a Buddhist friend who might be asking you about Christmas? How would you tell her the story in a way that would interest her? Each year we think about that in Thailand as we share about Jesus’ birth in public schools and at our church plant. Here are a few ideas that might help you as you share. 

 Wisemen from the East show the Asian connection for people who mistakenly think that Christianity is a western religion. Jesus was not born in America! Diligent scholars of the stars and the scriptures found Him worthy  of a long trip and some very expensive presents. Many Asians think the same today as the huge growth of Christians in China and Vietnam shows.

The sacrifice of Jesus in leaving heaven and choosing to be born in a place of poverty connects to Buddhist themes of self-denial and turning from material pursuits to seek higher things. Some misunderstand Jesus’ lowly birth as bad karma until it’s made clear who He was, where He came from, and how much He gave up. The Christmas story shows that He was not slowly improving through many reincarnations. He was already totally enlightened and full of wisdom and power. 

We like to emphasize that Jesus became poor so that both the rich and the poor could approach Him. Out of compassion for those who suffer poverty, Jesus wanted to experience their pain and be approachable rather than live in a palace. Buddhism talks a lot about suffering and how to avoid it. Intriguingly, Jesus embraced suffering in order to help people find freedom.

The contrast between Jesus and the scheming, cruel Herod is a great part of the story that shows how greed and hate lead to suffering – another major theme in Buddhism. You can even emphasize how commercialized Christmas has become and show your Buddhist friends how this opposes the original intent. 

Finally, I would encourage you to share what this great story means to you. This seems to be what matters most to people, Buddhists or otherwise.

So friends, be shepherd-like and go eagerly and tell the good news everywhere! If you’d like to read the birth of Jesus as I’ve written it, you can go to www.Bridges and look under the lesson section for lesson 14 in Bridge of Hope. There are some great pictures to go with it. The password is hope4you.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

 For His joy,

Scott GriswoldDirector, Center for East Asian Religions and Traditions

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