Activated - - NEWS - By Dina El­lens

I was gath­ered with friends in a liv­ing room full of Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. There were re­fresh­ments on the cof­fee ta­ble, and we were singing Christ­mas car­ols to­gether. What could be more typ­i­cal?

But I live in South­east Asia, and I was sur­rounded by lo­cal friends and was at­tempt­ing to sing “O Holy Night” in a for­eign (to me) lan­guage. As my eyes trav­eled around the cir­cle, I briefly thought of each one that was there.

Susy con­verted from Bud­dhism. This caused an up­roar in her tra­di­tional fam­ily; but over the years, she has pa­tiently won each of them to Christ as well.

Nin­ing and her hus­band were self-pro­claimed ag­nos­tics when they got mar­ried. But Je­sus started work­ing on Nin­ing’s heart and she now at­tends church ev­ery Sun­day—but she sits alone, as none of her fam­ily are Chris­tians. Nin­ing’s prayer is that some­day her hus­band and sons will be there too, seated by her side.

Hanna’s par­ents were athe­ists when they lived in Com­mu­nist China, but they came to know Je­sus after em­i­grat­ing. After 30 years of mar­riage, they re­cently de­cided to re­new their mar­riage vows in church in the pres­ence of all their chil­dren. It was a joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion of faith for the whole fam­ily.

As I looked around the cir­cle, I thought of the long jour­ney each of my friends had taken to ar­rive at this point, where we were sit­ting to­gether singing Christ­mas car­ols. How­ever, there was still more to this sim­ple Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion that I didn’t know about. After we fin­ished singing “O Holy Night,” one of my friends con­fided:

“Bomb threats have been made on all the Chris­tian churches in the city. We’re so glad that we could gather here tonight.”

I looked at my friends and mar­veled at their love and stead­fast de­vo­tion, de­spite all odds. I some­times won­der what the fu­ture holds for Chris­tians who are un­able to live their faith freely. But tonight my fears were dis­pelled, as this thought came to me: As long as the Christ­mas star shines bright in our hearts and we who love Je­sus gather to cel­e­brate His birth, the light of Christ­mas will shine brightly and light the way for His re­turn. Dina El­lens taught school in South­east Asia for over 25 years. Although re­tired, she re­mains ac­tive in vol­un­teer work as well as pur­su­ing her in­ter­est in writ­ing.

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