On the night when Christ was born, a group of shepherds watched over their flocks in the fields near Bethlehem. Scripture tells us that, suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared. In the midst of his radiant glory, the shepherds were terrified. With words of reassurance, the angel brought good news of great joy: the Savior – the Messiah, the Lord – had been born in Bethlehem!
This unlikely audience for such a heavenly announcement then saw the skies filled with angels, each one praising God, saying:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
This Advent season, we turn our eyes toward Bethlehem and sing familiar hymns of Christmas praise – even as we face the anxiety, fear, frustration, and need caused by the pandemic. Although many of us may be locked down and separated from one another, we still join with the worldwide Body of Christ in celebration of the Incarnation: the coming of Emmanuel, our God who is with us.
This year, we have again invited several leaders from around the world to offer a meditation on Scripture and to share about their own local celebratory customs. We hope that these Christmas devotionals and stories will encourage you as we celebrate the Lord’s first coming and anticipate his next.
Image: “The Birth of Jesus Announced to Shepherds” by Lu Hongnian (1914-1989)
As a woman from a patriarchal Naga society, I am keenly sensitive to Mary’s role in the Christmas story. What immediately fascinates me is that she was chosen to bear the Son of God – what an honor! In a world in which women are dishonored and marginalized, this is a great story of honoring women.read more
As I grew older, I searched for the deeper meanings of Christmas. But what I found meaningful about Christmas at one stage of my life would not always suffice for the next. It seems to me that, as we grow and experience life in many ways, Christmas grows with us. We do not leave it behind. It shows up every year. It meets us at different points in our lives and we ponder its meaning anew.read more
It is customary for Chinese churches to reach out to local communities at Christmastime. However, as the situation worsens for many churches, and as Christians are constantly discouraged and even threatened, I am really not sure how we could sit around the table again this year to sing Christmas carols and retell the story of the Nativity. We Christians are in tears, crying as the psalmist once cried out in overwhelming desperation: “How long, O Lord, will you look on…” (Ps. 35:17).read more
In Japan, where only 1-2% of the population is Christian, people do not celebrate Christmas in the way Christians around the world do. Our culture generally associates Christmas with romance; thus, young people feel urged to find someone with whom to spend this “romantic holiday.” Alternatively, many families perceive Christmas as the day when they eat Kentucky Fried Chicken together (it is funny but true!). For many Japanese, Christmas is not the day for celebrating our Savior’s birth.read more
What strikes me about the Christmas story (according to Mathew’s account) is that the first Christmas was not a quiet and nice story at all. On the contrary, from the very beginning, on that first Christmas, the good news of salvation for humankind was jeopardized by hatred and violence.read more
We ask for your intercession on behalf of Beni. Our town has been brutally attacked twice in six days. The armed group that has been killing civilians in the Beni territory since 2014 has made incursions into the town of Beni and into our neighboring town of Oicha, killing over 75 of the most vulnerable inhabitants over the last three weeks. On November 24, one of the members of our contractor’s construction crew, the son of one of our campus guards, was killed in his neighborhood near our main campus.read more
Pray for Malawi and the aftermath of the general elections we had in May. Some political parties have not accepted the election results and the case is in court. There have been protests, at times violent, calling for the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission to resign. Pray that justice will prevail and that there will be peace in our country.read more
What is very crucial about Liberia is the number of young people in the nation. Liberia has a very youthful population, and Esther and I have had the opportunity of discipling and preaching the gospel to youths. Please pray that the young people in Liberia will come to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and have a transformative relationship with God.read more
My service has been in the area of missions and transformation, as well as missions in pluralistic religious contexts (Christianity, Islam, and traditional religions). In my 16 years of missions experience in Ghana, I have observed a phenomenal response to the gospel, as is common in some other sub-Saharan African countries. Operation World reports that “from 1900 to 2010, [African] Christian numbers grew from 9.1% of the population to 48.8%, and from 7.5 million to 504 million.”read more
For me, pray for God’s wisdom in my new role as Bishop of the Mwanza Diocese, good health, and networking with different people worldwide to enhance the ministry in the Mwanza Diocese. I need partners for working together on church leadership empowerment, evangelism and outreach ministries, youth ministry, women’s and children’s ministries, retired pastors’ ministry, etc. Even though my diocese has 550 churches, only 200 pastors have been fully trained in Bible schools. Over 300 pastors have not received training due to the inability to pay school fees.read more
The Evangelical Theological College (ETC) is preparing to launch its MA program in Christian-Muslim Relations in August 2020. This will be the first and only graduate program, in the Horn of Africa, that focuses on Islamic Studies. Please pray for the provision of necessary resources, and wisdom for us during the student recruitment process and as we identify adjunct lecturers for the program.read more
My studies on spirit possession among Borana Muslims have been an eye-opener to many Christians in northern Kenya. Some have requested more knowledge about the phenomenon and I am planning to hold a training where I will not only share about spirit possession, but also share about deliverance and inner healing.read more