We were celebrating our eighth Christmas in the former Soviet republic we then called home. That year Erick decided he wanted to throw a Christmas party for about 40 people, mostly not believers, whom he knew through his work in education and development. Most people in our adopted country were curious about our American holidays and traditions and so Christmas presented us with a great opportunity to talk about Jesus.
We decided to host the party at our favorite restaurant. Our apartment wasn’t large enough for that many people and I was frankly relieved not to have to cook for them all. We also decided to offer each of our guests a copy of the “JESUS” film in the local language. We fully understood the possible consequences of giving this gift. It could be viewed as proselytizing or distributing religious materials, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. As we said about a lot of dicey decisions during our 10 years there: Why live there if we weren’t willing to share what was most meaningful to us with our friends and neighbors?
Christmas is a great time anywhere to gather people who don’t know Jesus and tell them about Him! Almost everyone we invited came that evening. We all squeezed into a private room at the back of the restaurant. We had ordered lots of good food and after dinner we asked the waitresses not to disturb us for a half an hour or so. Once the waitresses had withdrawn, Erick stood up and preached!
Erick echoed the angel’s announcement of the birth of Christ and, as the angels did on that night outside Bethlehem, he announced Jesus’ birth in the language of the people! He not only told the story, he explained the story… why Jesus came and what He did for us when He died for us and was raised from the dead. And then Erick pointed to a small table near the doorway that led out into the rest of the restaurant. It was piled high with wrapped presents… DVDs of the “JESUS” film.
Erick explained these DVDs were our Christmas presents for anyone who wanted one. To our amazement everyone who came that evening went home with a DVD. Not one DVD was left by the end!
In today’s Christmas story, we get to take the role of the angels. We get to announce Jesus’ birth to the people around us. Christmas is a natural time to do this! And just like the angels, we need to use our words to explain what happened on that night over 2,000 years ago. We also have helpful tools, like the HD version of the “JESUS” film. We had the privilege of doing this in a place where one could be arrested for handing out the films. How much more should we take our opportunities in places where there is no legal risk, just perhaps a social risk.
How has the Lord impressed your heart to reach your world this Christmas? Be an angel! Announce Christ’s birth to your friends, neighbors and co-workers!
And have a Joyous Christmas!
Elizabeth and Erick Schenkel