Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! God Jul! Buon Natale!
Every language touched by the Gospel knows how to declare the Good News of great joy!
It’s such a special time of year when we turn on the Christmas Music (before December 1st) and the decorations come out. Living on the edge of the Sahara for so many years taught us that putting up a few decorations and playing a Christmas carol or two in November transforms even the bleakest of places into an oasis of joy, beauty, and worship. Besides, I (Bruce) wouldn’t be able to hold Lauren back until December if I tried!
Québec without snow at Christmas just wouldn’t be … Québec! And snow goes so well with any coffee shop that serves espresso, chocolate, mint, and whipped cream together in one cup!
We savour the simple joys of baking together, reminiscing with our kids on the Christmases we spent in Burkina Faso, setting up our manger scene, and watching BBC’s “The Nativity” and the “Christmas Carol”—it always fills me with a heady mix of joy, wonder, melancholy for Christmases past, and anticipation of Jesus’ return.
While our favourite Christmas dinners were in Burkina where we’d have family, other missionaries, and lonely unbelieving expatriates around our table, perhaps our most “memorable” Christmas dinner was in France…
The French celebrate on Christmas Eve, and we’d invited close friends to our place with the plan of serving them a traditional Canadian turkey dinner. They came, but with their own plan of introducing us to a traditional French Christmas supper.
Mounds of seafood, clams on the half shell, plus our turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings—followed by rich cheeses and desserts! SO MUCH FOOD! We all felt we needed to honour each other’s food, whether it was humanly possible or not. I hope never to eat that much food (of that many types) all in one meal again!
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without old and favourite traditions: singing carols, praying, and worshiping Jesus together before opening any gifts, and reading the nativity account compiled from the different gospels—Mary’s faith and willingness to bet her whole life on one word from God. Unbelief, shame, and rejection by her family, fiancé, friends, clan, and village. A lifetime of whispers, insults, crude jokes, community disapproval, and lost economic opportunities. A journey of decades with very little information about what Jesus would do. This teenager always challenges me by her choice to give her hopes, dreams, ambitions, dignity, security—her whole life, in other words, for God’s purposes. It’s no wonder she raised a son who would later say: “Not my will, but Yours be done”.
That idea makes this verse that I’ve been meditating on for 37 years—feel like I’m beginning to own it (now)…
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”Philippians 3:7-8
A tradition we’ve started since living in Québec: baking extra quantities of Christmas goodies! Everything from Norwegian Lefse to Nanaimo Bars to Canelés de Bordeaux – and then giving small plates of treats to neighbours, our local mechanic, baker, etc—our way saying “We appreciate you!” By the way, my favourite Christmas treat is chocolate, dark chocolate. Good quality European dark chocolate. Did I mention dark chocolate? 😉
A recent tradition we’re still growing into; inviting our kids and their spouses to send one of 3 P’s to each other between December and January. A Prayer, a Promise from the Word that we believe is specifically relevant to their situation, or a Prophetic word we’ve heard from the Lord for them for the year ahead. The Christmas miracle that can be seen in all of this is that Jesus came for one such as I!
So this Christmas season, pray that the Father brings me, or directs me to, one or two “fresh” unsaved people to initiate a disciple-making relationship with, as I continue disciple those who are already believers.