The entry to our apartment could have passed for the shoe section of a Goodwill. Nearly 200 shoes filled the corridor, a sprawling mountain lining the air with a glaring smell. The temperature became hotter and hotter as the space between people became smaller and smaller as more continued to file in. Before the end of the night, almost a hundred folks crammed in, speaking and joking in our second language.
Hosting the Unreached in Our Home at Christmas
Our teammates greeted as friends and neighbors buzzed around like elves between stations for cookie decorating. As they arrived, they heard a gospel presentation through the story of the candy cane and coloring nativity scenes. Our young kids received candy from everyone they could and gave tours of our tiny apartment to guests who had never seen inside a foreigner’s home.
This night was the fruit of months of labor. We’d start talking about Christmas at the end of October, trying to maximize the opportunity to capitalize on the ease of entry into spiritual conversations. We handed out cookies with Bible verses attached to neighbors. We worked to tie every conversation back to the holiday season and its implications for the gospel. Our team worked hard, but the conversations were easy. They’d go something like this:
“Christmas is a big deal to you foreigners, huh?”
“Definitely. It’s our most important holiday.”
“Yeah, it’s just like New Year for us.”
“It’s like that in some ways, but it’s also tied to what I believe. Let me tell you the story of why Christmas is so important to us.”
Gospel Conversations with the Unreached at Christmas
These conversations opened the door for great opportunities to dialogue about the gospel and invite new friends to our party. Before the evening of the party, we had a chance to challenge the common narrative of a world without design or purpose and to ask them to consider that there is a living God who loves them deeply. We had the chance to explore the idea that money, power, recognition, or achievement cannot fill the deepest longings of the human heart. We often took the opportunity to share that Christianity is not just another religion, but instead a real relationship with the living God.
By the time Christmas week arrived, dozens of people had heard the message of Christ, many for the first time. As our home swelled to capacity with people, the buffet line featured traditional Christmas goods like ham and turkey alongside lesser-known favorites like chicken feet and spicy dumplings. Laughter filled the air, even as our teams’ anticipation for the main part of the evening rose.
One of our teammates always shared a Bible story or the gospel. Sometimes a local brother or sister shared his or her story. We sang and laughed. We put our kids to bed way too late. But every year we rejoiced in the privilege to share the hope of Christmas with those who haven’t yet experienced it. The message about Jesus, who is the light of the whole world, became richer as we explained it to those from places where people are still sitting in darkness. The good news of peace on earth sounded even better to our own ears as we spoke to those who have lived in generations of spiritual unrest. Many of our friends who later came to faith heard the story of Jesus for the first time during the holiday season.
The Joy of Spending Christmas Among the Unreached
Did we miss family? Of course. But Jesus meant it when he said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).
I’ve never gotten anything even close to that good in my stocking. When we aren’t overseas, we miss the purposefulness and joy that only this kind of Christmas can bring. Nonetheless, no matter where we live, opportunities for more meaningful Christmas celebrations abound.
When we aren’t overseas, we miss the purposefulness and joy that only this kind of Christmas can bring.
There are more ways than we know to include those who don’t know Jesus in our Christmas celebrations this year. Invite your Hindu friend to Christmas dinner. Ask your Muslim classmate to coffee and discus the incarnation of Christ. Include more people who are different than you in your Christmas light drive through or ugly sweater exchange. You might just find that God gives way better gifts than you ever would have thought to put on your list.