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Let every heart prepare him room 

M is a CMS missionary in North Africa, where few know the real reason for the Christmas decorations that appear in the shops towards the end of each year. Here, she reflects on making the most of this seasonal opportunity to ‘prepare the way’, while waiting for God to open people’s hearts at the right time.

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins” 

Luke 1:76-77 (NIV) 

There are three malls in the city close to where I live and, in a muted version of what happens in Australia, around December they fill up with red and green decorations, with at least one pine tree for people to take selfies.  

But no one has heard of Christmas. Everyone I meet believe these decorations are about Westerners/Christians (these are the same thing in people’s minds) celebrating New Year.  

The reason for the season 

Our reason for celebrating in December is so much greater than a simple change of year. We’re celebrating the biggest change in history! So, my goal every Christmas is to tell as many people as possible the real reason for our celebrations, and introduce them to the idea of God who became a man. 

When I worked for a language school, owned by a fellow worker, we held parties at Christmas time, praying beforehand and preparing to share the good news of Jesus.  

One of the parties was for the older ladies who did literacy classes at our school. Every Thursday morning, four or five women would come and learn Arabic. They’d all been speaking it for many years, but had never learned to read or write. This was a precious group of women and I’d always enjoyed morning teas together after their classes, so I was excited to get to share Christmas with them. 

The view from M’s window.

Waiting for the moment 

We prepared a feast for them, and I prepared to talk about the shepherds hearing about the good news of great joy for all the people. Our context means that events can’t be explicitly evangelistic and so we prayed and looked out for a suitable, natural opening for us to share, but none came… 

Eventually, the conversation moved to talking about an older lady a few of them knew, who had become pregnant later in life. It wasn’t the opening I’d hoped for, but it was the only link I could see, so I burst into the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist.  

The ladies nodded their heads and made passing comments that they had a similar story in the Qu’ran, and then they moved onto other topics.  

Preparing the way 

It was disappointing to not get to share what we had prepared, but, as John the Baptist prepared the way, often it feels like that’s what our work is.  

We love and care for people, and prepare them so that they’re ready to hear the good news of Jesus at the right time; the time ordained by God for them to be able to hear and understand.  


PRAY

Ask God to sustain CMS missionaries working in parts of the world where few people are aware of the real reason for Christmas, and pray that gospel seeds would grow.