Merry Christmas! With the family of God around the world, we stand in awe of the God who was born as a lowly child that we might be born again as children of the Most High. This week, Shurhi Meyase from Nagaland exhorts us to let our light shine like the star of Bethlehem, pointing the way to Christ even in the darkest night.
Along with Meghalaya and Mizoram, Nagaland is one of three Indian states – all in the Northeast – with a Christian majority. Around 90% of Nagaland’s 2 million people follow Jesus. This Christmas, many in Nagaland especially need Christ’s consolation and hope after Indian soldiers mistook Naga coalminers for rebels in early December, killing six men. Another eight civilians and one soldier died in a subsequent clash over the ambush. Naga protesters are demanding an independent investigation and apology, as well as the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which grants legal immunity to soldiers who mistakenly kill civilians. Pray with us that our God, who loves justice and redeems sin, would work good out of this tragedy for all who look to Him.
Shurhi is pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (UK). Her research investigates how Christian and traditional Angami Naga moralities converge and diverge. Amid a revival of tribal festivals and practices in her context, Shurhi’s scholarship will guide the Naga Church’s perspective and response. Shurhi’s studies will also enhance her teaching ministry at Shalom Bible Seminary (a client of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative), where she has served as Assistant Professor since 2011.
Shurhi shares the following devotional and prayer message:
For me, as a child, the most exciting and awaited season was the Christmas season. This was the season when I would get a new dress, go carolling, and play games around the bonfire late into the night. It was also the only time when my parents would allow me to have sleepovers with friends. As soon as Christmas was over, I would look forward to the next Christmas.
I am from a quiet little town called Medziphema, well known in Nagaland for its sweet and juicy pineapples. Medziphema would become the most happening place for our little community during the Christmas season. A good number of our community members live outside of our town, pursuing education, work, and business elsewhere. Come Christmas, most would return home for the holidays.
Our church community would come alive with lots of activities around this time. From the 20th of December until the 1st of January, we would have evening Christmas carol services. Bonfires afterward would be routine from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. All the church members, young and old, would gather around the fire and spend time together. There would be different activities, such as competitions, singing, fun games, and so on, with different snacks provided.
A lot has changed since my childhood days, but our church still continues our Christmas tradition of carol services, bonfires, and different recreational activities, bringing our community members near and far together to celebrate Christmas. On Christmas and New Year’s Day, the whole community would feast together. We would work together, butchering, cleaning, cooking, and the like, before feasting and playing together.
The last Christmas was one of the quietest for our church, due to the pandemic. This year, heeding all the government guidelines, we will have our Christmas service and community feast, and we are looking forward to a more spirited Christmas!
The Leading Star
There are many significant events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. One that has made its way into our decorations, cards, carols, and nativity scenes is the star of Bethlehem. The star serves as a significant symbol of the Savior who has come from the heavens into our world.
During the Christmas season in Nagaland, the most prominent sight would be of stars hoisted tall on bamboo poles outside most homes, shops, and public places in towns and villages alike. They would look very beautiful at night, lighting up the darkened sky.
Years ago, a friend and I were talking about putting up stars in our homes. A comment she made has stuck with me ever since. She said, “The star of Bethlehem led the Magi to Christ. I am not keen on putting up the star in my house because if somebody follows the star and comes to my place looking for Jesus, they will not find him in our broken home.”
Today, whenever I see stars high above homes or shops, I ask in my mind: “Is Christ in this place or home? Will those following the star find Christ here?”
Matthew 2:1-12 gives us the account of the three Magi who came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him“ (v. 2). Matthew tells us that the Magi described the star they saw as “his” (v. 2). To the Magi, the star was not simply a random sign, but rather an enduring symbol of the “King of the Jews.” Then again in v. 9, Matthew says that the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. The star that had inspired their trip in the first place has now led them directly to the very home where the Christ-child dwelt.
The star that led the Magi to Christ is a wonder for many. It is difficult to explain the star, yet it also cannot be easily dismissed. The mystery of the star has led to several theories about it being a comet, a conjunction of planets, a supernova, and/or a manifestation of God’s glory.
When all is said and done, there is something much better than these explanations. The appearance of the star is a mystery, a miracle and one of the many wonders surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. Even if we cannot explain the star of Bethlehem, the purpose is clear. It pointed the Magi to Christ. The star caught the Magi’s attention and brought them to Israel, seeking the Saviour. They kept searching until they found him. Once they found him, they worshiped and adored him, presenting themselves and their gifts to him.
The decorative Christmas star today is a reminder of the star that guided and led the Magi to worship Christ Jesus. May it also help us to reflect on God’s desire for us to be like the star and lead people to Jesus. May we let our light shine for people who are seeking the Savior. May we point the way to Christ!
Please continue to pray for my research writing that I will be able to complete on time.
Please pray for my mother’s health. She has poor health, and it is slowly failing.
Please pray for my church as we celebrate Christmas. Pray that this season will draw those who have wandered away to come back to the Lord.
Pray also for Nagaland. On the 4th of December, when some villagers from Oting, in the eastern part of Nagaland, were returning from work, the Indian Army ambushed and killed six of them. Eight more civilians were killed later. This has created a lot of tension, anger, and agitation against the Indian army. The Naga people are asking the Indian government to repeal the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), which the government of India has enforced in Nagaland and other parts of Northeast India since 1958. Through this law, soliders have abused their powers on many occasions and treated us inhumanely.
Just when we had been looking forward to celebrating Christmas, this unfortunate incident happened. Amid all the turmoil, I would like to request prayer for the peace of Christ to dwell among the Naga people and for wisdom as the Nagas deal with the herculean task of negotiating with the Indian government.