The What and the How

The first Christmas in that very Hindu city in India, our small group of newly arrived missionaries (including me) had to figure out how to celebrate in a city without Christmas carols in the mall (and without a mall!), without Christmas trees, without candlelight church services, without traditional Christmas food, without our family and friends – without the externals we relied on to make Christmas “Christmas”.

It forced us to re-consider Christmas. What is it really? What can we do in this cultural context to communicate and to celebrate that? What we came up with was nothing grand. But it changed our lives.

india-christmas-partyWe decided to make special sweets and write personal letters to give to our Hindu friends and neighbors. We went to their homes together to offer our gifts and to tell them how important their friendship was to us. We even sang a couple of Indian-style Christmas carols in Hindi. With the small band of Christian students at the Hindu University in the city, we invited everyone we knew to a Christmas party where they could have fun with God’s people and hear the message of God made flesh. On Christmas Day we gathered at someone’s home, sharing food, exchanging small gifts in creative, fun ways, worshipping God, and praying that our friends and our city would see Jesus.

As we intentionally created ways to celebrate and communicate Christmas, we also created:

  • opportunities to talk with our Hindu friends and neighbors about the scandal of Jesus who alone is God.
  • a strong sense of belonging to each other as the family of God.
  • deep joy as active participants in the purposes of God in our city.

And as we aimed by our actions to shine a light on Jesus so others could see Him, we saw Him in new ways, too!

Why did those small things done by a few followers of Jesus make a lasting impact?

boys-at-christmas-partyIt was counter cultural. Both what we celebrated and how we celebrated stood in stark contrast to the culture we lived in.

It was collective. Not me doing my thing for my purposes, but the collaborative efforts of people committed to each other, to worshipping Jesus and to calling others to worship Him.

It was not comfortable. But we didn’t expect it to be. We had not come to India to be comfortable. We were prepared for life to be radically different than it had been before. So Christmas, like the rest of life for us there, was not about creating maximum good feelings.

That’s the point of the Advent Conspiracy. To see God make a lasting impact on us and others as we adjust our expectations, prayerfully making new decisions as the family of God about what we celebrate in this season and how, joyfully participating in the purposes of God in the world. Not to make ourselves feel good (though we will!), but so that others can see and experience Jesus.

Written by Becky Stephen

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