Tonari no Seki-kun (My Neighbor Seki) is a gag-manga centering around class hijinks. Rumi Yokoi is an above average student trying to pay attention in class when, never failing, her classmate next to her (Toshinari Seki) begins to do something ridiculous. Each chapter of the manga (and each episode of the anime series of the same name) consists of vignettes of various silly antics of Seki and Rumi trying to not be distracted. She’s generally failing in the not being distracted department.
In volume 4 of the compiled manga, there’s a short tale (dubbed 50th Period) about Seki and a Christmas tree. Seki begins to get into a Christmas spirit and sets up a Christmas tree on his desk. Rumi is not amused.
But, as is usual, Rumi begins to daydream about what could happen next. Not just with a tree on Seki’s desk, but on all their desks. Everyone getting into decorating for Christmas! It could be a lot of fun, she begins to think.
When she stops daydreaming – that’s when Rumi looks back over at Seki. What has he done? Created a tree covered in Santas. He then sets up some lights, covers the tree, and waits for it to burn. No, literally. He gets this crazed and maniacal look on his face in the process.
In the end, Rumi is able to ruin Seki’s prank and kind of save the Santas. I mean, they’re toys, but still.
So, how is Christmas presented? As a superficial holiday about Santa, trees, and gift giving. The way Rumi and Seki understand Christmas from it’s presentation here is merely with those images. And why would they not. The way the world generally treats Christmas is as a commercial holiday focused on gift giving, presents, Santa, and prosperity based Gospel of generally doing good to get rewarded. That’s not really all that Biblical.
Of course God wants us to do good – He’d prefer that over us doing ill to our fellow man, but is that what Christmas is about? Is Christmas about Santa and presents? Is it about trees and packages? As a Christian, the answer is, “Of course not.” Christmas is about the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-20). It is about our remembrance that a virgin gave birth to a Son (Luke 1:29-35), as prophesied long ago (Isaiah 7:14). This Son would wipe away the sins of mankind (Matthew 1:20-23, John 1:29) through His death and defeat of death forever (1 Peter 1:18-19). He would defeat the serpent as predicted by God all the way back in Genesis (Genesis 3:15). Christmas is a miraculous story of God coming to Earth to protect His creation in the most vulnerable of hosts, a human baby.
Tonari no Seki-kun treats Christmas in a superficial and flimsy manner. Then again, so do we sometimes. We get wrapped up in the glitz, lights, the presents – and lose sight of His presence. Remember that.
Also, remember that a gag-manga which exists solely to entertain and be ridiculously silly is probably not your best bet for learning theology…