It was the *Woodhouse family’s second year serving in Indonesia, and their first Christmas living in the house they would rent for the next 18 years. Everything was going really well. They had found a home to rent in a mostly Muslim neighborhood and were on good terms with their landlord, Mr. Haji, who lived right next door. Everyone called him “Mr. Haji” because he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. He considered the Woodhouses to be part of his own family. In fact, he had instructed all the neighborhood kids to be nice to the whole family or else they would answer to him!
The neighborhood was the kind where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Having settled in, the Woodhouses employed some local help to work in their home. This assured that many details of their lives became part of the neighborhood’s interesting news. The Woodhouse family had already shared that they were followers of Jesus, but soon it was known that they did not own any dogs or eat bacon, pork, or ham, things considered “haram” (forbidden) to Muslims.
These considerations were very intentional on the part of the Woodhouses. They did not want to cause any offense or relational distance with their Muslim neighbors. Knowing Indonesians already believed Christianity to be a “Westerners” religion, the Woodhouse family desired that everything they did and said point to Christ and not merely to religious trappings.
During the Christmas season this meant no Christmas tree in the Woodhouse home. The four Woodhouse children were perfectly fine with this because they had never had a Christmas tree. As Mr. Woodhouse put it, “I never found a tree helpful for pointing myself or anyone else toward thoughts of the incarnation.”
The absence of a tree had been noticed, however. And one December morning a knock at the door revealed Mr. Haji bearing a gift. “I saw you didn’t have a Christmas tree, so I wanted to bring you one.” The Woodhouse family graciously accepted the little, potted evergreen and set it in a place of honor in their front room where neighborhood visitors could admire it. To this day, the now-grown Woodhouse children enjoy the irony that their first Christmas tree came from an Indonesian Haji!