This month, Insight for Living’s staff members around the world share what the gift of Christmas means in their corner of the globe. Though they express Christmas greetings in many languages, we can see the unity of the true gospel at work in and through them. I hope their diligence and devotion to a single purpose are an encouragement to you when divisiveness dominates and righteousness is ridiculed. If a church planter in Beirut, a medical doctor in Moscow, and a cowboy-boot-wearing Brit in England can all be united on the same team for the same purposes, there’s hope for anyone — in Christ!
—Brian Leicht, vice president of International Ministries, Insight for Living
Christmas in the United Kingdom tends to clear away the clutter. Little towns hold carol festivals. Cathedrals host extra services, and people actually attend. Hearts hardened by the raw commercialism of the season soften in the glow of candlelight. Just beneath the consciousness of this largely post-Christian land, there is an old memory of what it’s all about. It doesn’t take much to bring it to mind once the clutter is cleared away.
—Terry Boyle, pastor
Many in the Middle East, including some Muslims, celebrate Christmas with traditional markers — Christmas trees, gifts, and family gatherings. At a deeper level, though, the coming of Immanuel — God with us — has profound significance in an area torn by wars and conflicts. Even when our roads are bombed, the road to Him leads to refuge. When our phones are out, we can always speak to Him. And when darkness falls, He remains our light and our salvation.
—Charlie Costa, pastor
Mexico & Columbia
In the Spanish-speaking world, the Christmas season is the most joyful time of the year. From the Night of the Candles in Colombia on December 7 to Three Kings Day in Mexico on January 6, the celebrations related to Christ’s coming extend for several weeks. Though the food, the exchange of gifts, and the time with family are wonderful, Christmas is ultimately about the greatest and most joyous gift of all — Jesus Christ, who through His coming, death, and resurrection, paved the way for us to be reconciled to God.
—Isadora Brudwick, scriptwriter, Lina Parks, transcriber
Christmas time in Guatemala is a big fiesta. People everywhere decorate the streets with lights and head out to shop for gifts. For Christians, the celebration deepens as we reflect on the birth of Jesus who came to earth bringing salvation and eternal life. Like the apostle Paul, we offer heartfelt thanks to “God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)!
—Carlos López, pastor
Jesus brought with Him deep and abiding joy for those who believe. So Christmas is a time of year for rejoicing — especially in Russia, which not so long ago was an atheistic country. With new freedoms now in place, we sing, hold concerts, and celebrate the good news of Christ’s coming. As a result, Christmas is one of the best times of year to speak with other Russians about God’s love.
—Peter Mitskevich, pastor
As Canada becomes an increasingly diverse mosaic (as we like to call it), God’s free gift of salvation becomes even more relevant. Freely given, freely received, no artificial terms or conditions, and no exclusions, the life-breath of God is available for all people who choose to believe. Christmas reminds us of God’s grace and His invitation to all to be included as His children — this awareness and this message are critical as we represent Christ to our fellow Canadians.
—Ben Lowell, executive director
On Christmas Eve, Poles celebrate with a supper of at least 12 unique dishes. We begin the meal with the breaking of wafers, a symbol in Poland of forgiveness, love, and reconciliation. For many, this symbolic offering has become an empty ritual, but for those who truly know Christ as Lord and Savior, it reminds us of His coming in human flesh to bring humanity forgiveness from sin through His sacrificial death on the cross. What a wonderful gift!
—Zygmunt Karel, pastor
Though Brazil may be known as a country with a Christian background, Christ is little more than a remote memory for many Brazilians. Santa Claus has become the main star of the show, meaning that the beauty and simplicity of true Christmas has become obscure and distant. Therefore, my family and those in my church strive to engage in the Christmas narrative, designing all our celebrations — games, music, Scripture reading — to guide our thoughts back to the true centerpiece of Christmas, Jesus Christ.
—Fernando Bochio, pastor
Christmas is usually hot in Australia — not the right season for roasted turkeys and piles of steaming vegetables. But each year, we seem to relive the traditions passed down from our European heritage. Fake snow is placed on windows, along with lights that mimic icicles. During Advent, we decorate the house and listen to traditional songs that herald the birth of our Savior, culminating with carols by candlelight at our church on Christmas Eve. Christmas is a hectic time, but I love the mix of tradition and family as we focus on Jesus’s birth.
—Peter Tyrrell, executive director