Thursday, December 16, 2010


“All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished…” Luke 2:18a
A small western church was having their traditional children’s Christmas pageant when suddenly one of the shepherds broke loose and went excitedly down one aisle tapping people on the shoulder and repeatedly asked, “Did you hear? Jesus has been born!” Down one aisle and up the other aisle, over and over. The twelve year old boy was fully engaged in proclaiming the news to the audience. I was astonished. And my guess is that the whole congregation was. You see, he is an Afghan boy.

Sixteen rambunctious boys from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia went to a church’s Christmas dramatization of what happened in Bethlehem on Christmas Day over 2000 years ago. They were totally engaged with the noises of the marketplace and the manger scene with a live baby Jesus. The live donkey and a choir of angels singing thrilled them. They had to go back to take a second look at the baby. They had a hard time containing their astonishment.

An Iranian lady listened attentively to me as I told her the story of Christmas and Easter combined. When I came to the truth that God came to earth and appeared in human form and is whom we call Jesus or Isa al Masih her eyes flinched. It was astonishing new information for her.

Today a three year old Muslim girl was looking in my purse and saw red, white and green striped candy canes. “What’s that?” she asked inquisitively. “Would you like to hear the story of Christmas from the candy cane?” I asked her mother. When I got to the red stripe, symbolic of the suffering of Jesus, the mother got extremely agitated. Just looking at the candy cane evoked tremendous fears in her. I was astonished to see such a strong fearful reaction.

I delivered Christmas goodies to an Oromo Muslim family and gave them a Jesus dvd in their language. They looked astonished watching the story about Jesus’ birth, but also evidenced a twinge of consternation. They talked in low whispers between themselves. After about five minutes of viewing it, the wife told the husband to put the volume down low, went and checked if anyone was outside the door and locked it. How sad to still feel monitoring control in the free West.

Christmas comes alive for me when I am able to share the message with Muslims. I get astonished just witnessing their astonishment. After a highly educated Muslim couple heard the Christmas story the husband asked incredulously, “Joy, who on earth would make up such a story as this?” “God!”, I replied. Except He didn’t make it up. It’s not fantasy. It’s real. When we understand the Christmas story it will leave even us utterly astonished.

Dear heavenly Father, how thrilling it is to feel fully alive with the message of Jesus’ birth. Lead me to more people who don’t know the story. In Jesus’ name, Amen.