Activated - - NEWS - By Priscila Lip­ciuc Priscila Lip­ciuc has been a mis­sion­ary in East­ern Europe for more than 20 years.

I grew up in Com­mu­nist Ro­ma­nia, where there was a state ban on re­li­gion, so “find­ing Christ­mas” wasn’t easy.

“Don’t use the word ‘Christ­mas’ at school or with peo­ple you don’t know,” I re­mem­ber be­ing told when I turned school age. We used the word at home be­cause some mem­bers of my ex­tended fam­ily were old enough to have grown up be­fore the ban and still se­cretly kept the hol­i­day. With ev­ery­one else, the tree was to be called “the New Year tree.” Christ­mas was “the win­ter hol­i­day.” If we chil­dren re­ceived gifts, there was no men­tion of Christ­mas at­tached.

I was only a few years old when we got our first tree. It had real can­dles on the branches, and each day, my re­ward for be­ing good was hav­ing the can­dles lit for a few min­utes.

A few years later, I re­mem­ber look­ing at the only Ortho­dox icon in our house through the branches of the Christ­mas tree and won­der­ing if there was any con­nec­tion be­tween the two. Who is that pic­tured there? Why do we keep a pic­ture of some­one we don’t know?

I also re­mem­ber the first Christ­mas I cel­e­brated in the coun­try­side with other mem­bers of my fam­ily. The peo­ple there had a bit more free­dom, and we lis­tened to Christ­mas car­ol­ers sing about the first Christ­mas. It was beau­ti­ful, but it didn’t make much sense to me. It wasn’t un­til the Com­mu­nist regime col­lapsed that I got a chance to learn about Christ­mas and other truths from the Bi­ble.

When I be­came a mother, our apart­ment was filled with Christ­mas mu­sic, and ev­ery cor­ner was dec­o­rated, but my face was of­ten tearstained. I was happy, yes, but my heart also broke at the thought of God giv­ing up His only Son to save us. The thought of giv­ing my own dear Emanuel for some­one else was more than I could bear. I might be able to give my own life for an­other, but never my son’s!

The thought of God let­ting go of His only Son, know­ing what was to be­fall Him, was over­whelm­ing. I was happy and thank­ful that God chose to do what He did, but it also broke my heart. The joy was there—the ever-present joy of Christ­mas—but so was the re­al­iza­tion of the mag­ni­tude of the sac­ri­fice that God made for us.

I still shed a few tears at Christ­mas when I re­mem­ber the pain be­hind our joy, but the joy far out­weighs the sad­ness. And that’s as it should be. It was a price God was will­ing to pay be­cause of His love for us!

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