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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

Conversations from Christmas




It is Christmas Eve. I sit at the dining room table, surrounded by people from four different countries who are communicating with each other in their common language of Arabic. While they talk, I play Frank Sinatra Christmas songs on our Bluetooth speaker. The women of the house, and one woman’s husband, are hard at work preparing food for our Christmas party tonight. There are cuisines from Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, America, France, and probably other countries I’m forgetting right now. Some of the women sit at the table with me rolling grape leaves that will later be cooked and used as an appetizer and side dish. Other women are in the kitchen preparing injera, an Ethiopian staple. The mood is joyous, and everyone is looking forward to our celebration tonight.

 

One of our former volunteers, a young woman from Denmark, purchased a number of gifts with donations from her friends and family. She created a beautiful advent calendar. At dinner each night,


The Advent calendar created by our volunteer

one guest’s name is drawn from a hat, and that person gets to open a gift from the calendar. So far, there have been decorations, chocolate, and crafts. The women derive great joy from opening the gifts and displaying its contents to everyone else.

 

But none of these individuals celebrate Christmas normally. Many of them come from Islamic backgrounds, whether they consider themselves Muslim or not. The Ethiopian women are Orthodox Christians, which means their Christmas celebration usually takes place on the 7th of January. However, since they have come to a Western country are in a house that is largely staffed by Western Christians, they have chosen to join us in our Christmas celebrations.

 

It is the same with our daily prayer times. No one is ever required to join us, but many of the women choose to do so. In these prayer times, we sing songs in various languages, read the Bible, and pray. These times are a beautiful reminder and celebration of the universal nature of the Church and of the God we serve. This also opens up channels of communication between us and some of our guests from other faiths, many of whom have never been a part of a Christian prayer before. While our goal in the house is not primarily one of evangelism, there have been several guests who have chosen to convert to Christianity after spending time here. I believe this is a powerful illustration of the effects that showing genuine, unconditional love in the name of Jesus can have on people.

 

So as people around the world celebrate Christmas and remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ today and tomorrow, let us remember this lesson and choose to love unconditionally, seeking every day to follow the commands of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We are part of a beautifully diverse community. This shouldn’t scare us. Instead, it should drive us to seek opportunities to love those who are different from us in real, tangible ways. The power of the love of Jesus cannot be overstated.

 

Love and peace be on you all, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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