Memories of Christmas where it all began
By Kate | Middle East in Middle East
Representative photo via Unsplash by David Gavi
SIM worker Kate, serving in the Middle East, shares some Christmas memories of her ministry in regions where Christ was born and the church was founded.
There were many surprises when Mary gave birth to Jesus, including a bunch of shepherds who visited without an appointment. That first Christmas was full of unmet expectations, twists to the script, and surprises that couldn’t have been humanly foreseen.
As I recall the many Christmases I’ve experienced over the years of living in various 'Bible lands,' I remember the joy of celebrating simply with much laughter, many unmet expectations, and several surprises.
One time, my housemate and I went to the local church expecting to then visit many people in their homes. This was a tradition for any feast day and Christmas was no exception.
We assumed that, as usual, we’d end up being fed lunch somewhere too. However, this time no one was going to be home to visit and no one invited us. We later sat at our kitchen table discouraged and deflated eating peanut butter sandwiches for our Christmas lunch (although we were thankful for peanut butter as that was a relative treat in those days!).
Learning from past experiences, next Christmas, my housemate and I decided we’d invite our neighbours to visit us and share the Christmas story and its meaning, by using a clip from the 'Jesus film' in their language.
We couldn’t invite all our neighbours at the same time, so in true Western, time-focused fashion, we invited one group at 3pm, another at 5pm, and then more at 7pm. We prepared lots of treats and activity sheets for the kids and a few games, plus the all-important video clip.
We cleaned the house and were ready ... would anyone come?
Gradually, a few kids arrived, followed by their mothers and we served drinks and sweets according to the customs.
Then more came and people squished up on the floor mattresses and then more — oh no, we’d run out of glasses and were these people on the sweets round or the cookies round?
Suddenly, people we’d invited for later, all appeared because they saw the others and thought now was the time! In a people-focused society, joining together took precedence over a specific hour.
I remember the panic rising as we tried to manage everything and the room filled to overflowing. We tried remembering who the first visitors were and so gave them fruit — a cultural sign to say the visit is soon over.
But no one left yet and still more came and squashed in and joined the laughter and didn't notice the video clip playing. Then I remembered we needed to pair the shoes (that were all at the door) for the guests when they left. About 60 pairs later, the deed was done, but people continued to enter!
Our controlled, streamlined three-sittings of guests had collapsed, but no one seemed to mind the chaos, nor our shoddy hospitality. It was a truly communal celebration that left us exhausted and laughing.
The memories could go on of ways I’ve enjoyed celebrating our Saviour’s birthday, and while there have been twists to the script of my celebrating Christmas, there’ve been many opportunities to share God’s gift of Jesus to those around me.
So as Christmas draws near, I pray many people will discover the good news of Jesus as we all enjoy celebrating his birthday.
• That Kate will continue to be a beacon for Jesus as she builds relationships and shares the good news in regions where there are few believers.
• With gratefulness that Christmas allows opportunities to share the gospel.
• That the Middle East will be transformed as lives are changed by the love of Christ.
Story first appeared on SIM UK website.