As night follows day, the annual blitzkrieg of Christmas advertising is followed by lots of hand-wringing about how we’ve lost the “true meaning of Christmas.”
This year even the hand-wringers are probably praying (quietly) for huge holiday sales to jump-start the economy. Still, we hear Charlie Brown’s poignant cry cutting through the commercialization: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Sure, Charlie Brown. They may be getting harder to find in America, but you can locate people all over the world who know what Christmas is all about. They’re in some surprising places, as these recent reports from missionaries illustrate:
-- A young woman in a communist country began tutoring the children of Christian workers. When the mother of the children presented her with a Bible, she expressed tearful thanks. As the tutor left their home and started down the road, the mother watched her from a window. She saw the tutor pull out the Bible, hold it to her heart and kiss it.
-- A woman in Taiwan joined 90 people participating in a Thanksgiving meal at a local church. But she wasn’t there primarily for the turkey and trimmings. Rather, she had a pressing question: “Why has no one ever told me about God before?” Stunned by the question, a missionary led her to salvation in Christ on the spot.
-- A Christian worker among Muslims in Eastern Europe sent this request: “Please be in prayer for our Christmas outreach. We will be assembling Christmas gift bags and distributing them to all the students of a local school. Thank God with us that the school administrator, once very skeptical of us and our work, has once again given us the ‘green light’ to present these gift bags any way we choose and to put on a program that includes Christmas hymns and other evangelism. Pray [that] the whole village will be radically transformed by the Lord.”
-- Many Tibetans live in high-altitude areas where snow has been falling since November. In December, people come down to the cities to stay with friends and extended family members until the snow clears in March — enabling Christ followers to talk to Tibetan Buddhists about Christmas and the Gospel. Pray they will have opportunities to share with Tibetans who have come from distant and hard-to-reach places.
-- Believers are partnering in a Christmas distribution project that has the potential to reach tens of thousands of people in a major Asian city. Pray that each person who receives a Gospel packet will read the literature and watch the corresponding video. Ask the Holy Spirit to open hearts, and pray that many will make decisions this year to follow Jesus.
And in South Asia, a Muslim-background follower of Jesus recently posed this question to a Christian worker who serves as his spiritual mentor: “If a brother or sister is having a problem with something in their lives, would this be a good time to fast and pray?”
“Definitely!” the mentor answered quickly, a little impatient with the simplicity of the question.
“Should fasting always be done individually or can it be done in a group?” the believer asked.
Either way, the mentor responded, as long as it is a time of humble submission and drawing close to God.
The believer — who leads a fast-growing, house-based movement of Muslim-background Christ followers — became excited.
“We have already been talking about fasting and praying on Dec. 24th, especially for the [evangelistic] outreach this year,” he announced. “Then we will break the fast on the 25th and have a celebration and meal together.”
No Christmas tree, no candlelight service, no presents or lights, the mentor thought to himself. Just brothers and sisters coming together to fast and pray for the lost — and then to rejoice together on Christmas Day, confident that their prayers will be heard by their Savior, Jesus Christ.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.