The First Christmas Celebration: Not What You May Think

This year, some people are celebrating their first Christmas ever!  Many others, twenty centuries after the first Christmas, are still waiting!

In the 1950s, my parents saw in a new way the true joy of Christmas. A young Indonesian man had recently come to faith and was thrilled that “now, I can celebrate Jesus’ birth too” as he joined the all-day Christmas celebration held by a fledgling church in a previously unreached area.

About the same time, a 70+ year old Indonesian woman heard (via a tape recording in her own language) her first story ever about Jesus.  She turned to my dad with tears in her eyes and with sobs in her voice and said, “If what this man says is true, my whole life has been in vain!  Why did it take so long for someone to tell me this news?”

60+ years later, we continue to hear reports of essentially the same question asked by many in the Middle East, in Africa, in India, in China and in many other places: “If people have known of this Jesus for so long, why has it taken so long for someone to tell us?”

Have you noticed who God selected to hear His first Christmas announcement: ordinary – you might even say poor – people (the shepherds). And people from a distant land: (the Magi / Wise Men). The shepherds responded in faith by both hurrying to the new baby and by spreading this amazing story to all who would listen.  The Magi responded with such faith in God that they understood the meaning of the star, were willing to make a long journey, gave expensive gifts, and bowed in worship to Jesus.

Please help speed the Christmas message to the 2.3 billion who have never heard and are still waiting!  Join us in the joyful urgency of getting the news of Christmas to the poor and those in distant lands. We want to do this as soon as possible, so that hundreds of thousands (or more) will celebrate Christmas for the first time next year!

S. Kent Parks, Ph.D.
President & CEO

“Those are not ancestors, but spirits who are lying to you.”

After arriving in the general area of a country where Tai Lu people live, *Bob and his team checked into a hotel and rented some motorcycles.  They were from a closely related people group and wanted to share the Good News with the Tai Lu people. After a night’s rest, they prayed together and pointed their motorbikes down the scenic, mountainous roads.  

An hour later, they saw a sign pointing toward the district they were seeking. They prayed continually, “Lord lead us to those you have prepared, a ‘person of peace’” (Luke 10: 5-7). Soon they saw a lady tending a water buffalo and dressed in Tai Lu garb.  They stopped and asked if there was a Tai Lu village near-by. She said yes and motioned them further down the road. Upon finding the village, the team soon spotted a couple working in their yard.

They greeted them, identifying themselves as being from a near culture. “We are here to visit with Tai Lu people.”  Both the husband and wife were intrigued to meet people from another country yet like themselves. After inviting the visitors inside their home, conversation gradually unfolded.

“Will you tell us about your practices of ancestor worship?” Bob asked.

After hearing about their religious practices, someone on the team said, “Those are not ancestors, but spirits who are lying to you.” Despite this seemingly confrontational statement, the couple were open and even eager to hear what they had to say.

The visitors shared a Bible story about God’s creation and ended with the redeeming work of Christ on the Cross.  Excited, the husband shared that an older Tai Lu man had visited them 20 years before. He had told them about a creator God who made everything, about Adam and Eve, and that all people are sinful.  That was all he knew of the Bible message. In faith, the husband had been acting on that message as best as he could. This couple and their son were delighted to hear the full story of God’s love expressed through Jesus.

The family believed and was baptized that same day.  The team left early in the afternoon and continued their search for spiritually prepared persons of peace in other villages.  Later that afternoon, the man telephoned the prayer-walking team to tell how he was out sharing the Bible stories with others!

*pseudonyms used

“I’m in this Job for a Reason . . .”

God convicted *John of not sharing his faith with his unbelieving co-workers. He became convinced that God had placed him in the exact cubicle, in this exact job for a reason – to tell them about Jesus and what he had done in John’s life. 

John began by laying a foundation of prayer and asking some close friends to hold him accountable for sharing his testimony. He started going to lunch with six of his colleagues. He told them how the Bible had radically changed his life and asked if they would like to read it with him to learn what it says about God and people. Some of them rejected the suggestion outright; some remained silent. 

Undeterred, John asked others: “I’ve never fully shared with you my life story. Could I share with you over lunch how Jesus changed my life?”  John got a lot of no’s.

Then one day, John asked a manager named Jason, a known atheist, if he would like to study the Scriptures. Jason had been one of the silent people in the lunch group, but when asked one-on-one, Jason responded, “Sure. Why not?” Another co-worker said, “Yeah, I’ve never really read the Bible before.” John was surprised! These guys were the ones he had thought least likely to come!

On the first week, John printed out a short Bible story, and the group read through it. He asked what it said about God and about people. He then asked: “If this is true, how should you apply it in your life?” They were intrigued and kept coming to study. Word got around the office, and in a couple of months, most of those in the office were attending the lunch gatherings. 

It wasn’t a scary or intense time. People walked in, picked up a sheet of paper, and started talking about it. Barriers came down. It was simple, straightforward, and moved beyond the office as the attendees told the stories to family and friends.

In similar ways, BEYOND mission catalysts seek to make obedient followers of Christ among the unreached. These disciples make other obedient disciples who plant churches that plant other churches. By living open lives and using simple, reproducible methods, we seek to bring God’s glory and saving power to those who don’t know him.

*pseudonyms used