Christmas for Evangelicals

December 25, 2005 by  
Filed under Events

Christmas for Evangelicals

Communism changed a lot in the Bulgarian mentality. For 45 years Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter were strictly forbidden. Christmas symbols and words were changed in an anti-Christian propaganda. For example, the traditional Bulgarian Christmas greeting Tchestito Rozdestvo Hristovo (Happy Birth of Christ) was replaced with Vesela Koleda (Joyfull Koleda – the word koleda derives from the Bulgarian word “kolia” which means to kill, to slay, and symbolizes the Bulgarian custom of slaying a pig in the preparation of the Christmas dinner). The name of Santa Claus was replaced with Grandpa Frost – again an old man with red clothing, long white beard and bag with presents; however, completely separated from the Christian meaning of the holiday. Even the traditional Orthodox Church was limited in their practice of Christmas.

Nevertheless, regardless of the persecution, secretly or openly, Christmas has always been present among the Bulgarian Protestants. Usually the church congregation would gather for a special Christmas service on Christmas Eve. In the Underground Church this event was one of the few occasions where the local congregation would come together and remain unnoticed by the secret police because of the celebration going on. Using the rare opportunity the church would not only use the time for fellowship but also for Communion and Baptism services. Since the churches did not own buildings, the baptismal would usually be performed in a river after the ice had been broken.

With the Fall of the Berlin Wall the situation changed dramatically. Through the largest spiritual revival Eastern Europe has ever known, in 10 years millions came to Christ. In the midst of the severe national economic crises, for protestants Christmas became not only a time of celebration, but also a time to reach to the ones in need. Thus the renewed Christmas became more powerful as it not only reflected on the Christian tradition but a real-life inspired practice of Christianity.

The Bulgarian Church of God is no stranger to these events. Every Christmas is seen as a ministry opportunity, as several activities take place. There are Christmas dinners for the needy which take place in the churches that sponsor social centers across the country. There is also a Christmas gift service for children from homes for children.

Christmas is a time when the church congregation comes together for reconciliation and recognition of the Birth of Christ. As the Christmas message is preached and Silent Night is sung, this holiday also becomes a celebration of the liberation of spirit and soul, provided by God through His Son. Thus for the church in a post-Communist context Christmas is the gift of liberty to come together and to worship. Remembering the Son of God who came to liberate us from sin and death we also wish you a Marry Christmas and a Happy New Year.