Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Tree

“…For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” Revelation 19:10b

Jamal and Afsana surprised me. Coming from conservative Afghanistan I did not expect to see a decorated Christmas tree in their home. It could have been they were nervous they would receive condemnation from their community if their tree was in full sight so they placed it in their bedroom. They asked to have their picture taken beside it. The tree remained there for months. It is not the first Christmas tree I have seen hidden away in the bedroom.

It's been interesting to observe the number of my Muslim friends in the past twenty five years here in the west who now put up Christmas trees decorated with all the lights, ornaments and maybe a star or an angel at the top. Some have reasoned it out that the Christmas tree has evolved into a “holiday tree” now and is for all people of any faith or no faith. But why the star or an angel at the top? Some of them give gifts to their children while others cook a turkey. I’m amused that some of them have become more traditional than me! I have not actually cooked the traditional turkey for Christmas but I have eaten turkey dinners in Muslim homes. Of course, not every Muslim home will participate in such traditions but there are a growing number who do. The majority of them make sure they stay far away from any appearance of identifying with “Christianity”. These conservative Muslim friends  try to adapt to the west but not adopt any custom that is associated with the Christian faith. But…oh, those trees and music and cookies and gifts, and Santa, of course, are all so alluring, and little children beg to have what other children enjoy. That’s most likely the reason many mosques have holiday parties for Muslim children around Christmas time.

Whenever I visit in a Muslim home that has a Christmas tree, whether hidden away or in full view, I know spiritual conversations will probably flow easily and naturally. When I see a tree has been put up I know some Islamic barriers have come down. I look over the tree ornaments carefully. Insights are gathered. Last week I was in a wealthy nominal Muslim home and admired their beautifully decorated tree. The spiritual conversation that flowed in my two hour visit was phenomenal. It didn’t have anything to do with the tree. It wasn't the tree I really wanted to talk about.  Certainly putting up a Christmas tree is a strong indicator that our Muslim friends are “searching their way” through religion and culture. The Holy Spirit gives us signs.  I suspect that the trend of adopting  long standing Christmas customs and traditions will continue to evolve in greater measure among Muslims living in the west in the coming years. We need to understand the signs of the times and have a clear prophetic witness of Jesus while changes occur.

Merry Christmas to all my readers! May God encourage you and make you fruitful in your friendships with your Muslim friends. God bless you. 

Dear heavenly Father, please give me discernment where my Muslim friends are in their faith and to know how to enter their search. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Redeeming the Christmas Stocking

"You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.  Then God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave all our sins.  He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us.  He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross."  Colossians 2:13-14

“What does Christmas mean to you?” I asked Habiba.  She exclaimed how much she loves the holiday season because of all the lights and decorations, etc. “Do you know the meaning of Christmas?” I pressed. “No,” she replied. “I just love everything because it is a happy beautiful time.” I don’t always start right away with telling the Biblical story of Christmas but talk about the decorations and why we have come to use them nowadays.  It is fun using Christmas traditions or legends for redemptive purposes with my Muslim friends.  You can read in Woman to Woman, Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend, how, in the Christmas season, I frequently use the legend of the white, red and green striped candy cane.

This year I am using the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings. There are different legends which have come down to us but I like the one when Saint Nicholas went to a function where a servant girl took his coat to hang up and they got into a conversation. She was sad because she had to work so hard to help pay off her father’s debts. One day out of compassion for the servant girl and her father, Saint Nicholas decided to visit their home. Her washed stockings were hung at the fireplace to dry.  He quietly dropped some gold coins in them to pay off their debts. Discovering the coins in the stockings the next morning the servant girl was overjoyed because now their outstanding debts were paid for and she would be free to get married and start a family and enjoy her very own Christmas.

No one likes to have a debt hanging over their head to pay off. Personally this year, a major earthly debt was paid off and it feels wonderful. Everyone dreams of being debt free! There is a debt – a sin debt - that has to be paid but we are unable to pay it off even with an abundance of good works, praying or fasting, but Jesus came to earth for this express purpose to pay our debt and set us free by His atoning death on the cross for our sins. What a huge act of kindness extended to us by Jesus Christ.  I bought a large red Christmas stocking and had DEBT embroidered on one side of the cuff and on the other side PAID.  This is the story I am telling my friends this year.  For little children I bought miniature sized red stockings which are meant to hang on the Christmas tree like ornaments. I will put chocolates in them to give as a small gift and tell them the story, too, in a relevant way for children to understand.

Witnessing at Christmas time is very exciting for me because the opportunities are rich.

Dear heavenly Father, it is so wonderful to have my sin-debt paid for and to enjoy the free gift of eternal life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.