TA Newsletter Article December 2011:
A Christmas Story
You know how almost every home in the states has a Christmas tree this month? Well, here in Peru, almost every home has a nativity scene displayed. It is hard not to think about the story of Jesus’s birth when I see the nativity scene everywhere that I go. Peruvians can relate to the story of Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary. I would like to share a personal story with you relating to the Christmas Story.
As you know, my Spanish is mediocre. I can extrovert with the best of them, but when it comes to explaining myself or my faith in vocabulary words of a mature adult, “lacking” would be the word I would use to describe my Spanish. God has a way of humoring us, doesn’t he. Two months ago, a friend that I have made in my new neighborhood came and knocked on my door. She was wanting to know if I could work with her on conversational English. She has a really good English foundation, but still lacks in conversation and common vocabulary we would use in conversing. I agreed, and she has been coming to my home for one hour, twice a week.
In our first meeting, she asked me a lot of specific questions about our work here. I wasn’t shy to explain why we are in Arequipa. I explained why we moved here, about the church, and talked about the developmental projects with CUDA. She went on to explain about her family and the faith that she has grown up with. She is Catholic, but both her mother and her sister have converted to evangelical Christian groups. There are a few things she is still uncertain about, but she told me that she was interested in “experimenting” in Christianity. Talk about an open door. I asked her if she would be interested in reading the Book of Mark with me in English. She could practice reading, recalling what she read in English, and listen to me read aloud in English. I gave her NT Wright’s little commentary, Mark for Everyone, to read as her homework. God sent me a friend here in Peru to lead through a study of Mark in English! Isn’t he funny.
I have loved our time together. She has become a sweet friend. We converse a lot (which is what she wanted), and we have made it through the first part of chapter 7. We have discussed “Who Is Jesus.” But the first part of chapter 7 describes a scene where Jesus returns to Nazareth, his home, and is teaching in the synagogue. The people realize that he is teaching with authority, but it doesn’t take long for the gossip of the townspeople to spread and decide, “Who is this guy kidding? This is Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s boy. He grew up here.” (my version, obviously) My friend and I had a conversation about knowing Jesus. Here we have read six chapters of a gospel account of Jesus’ time on earth, and Mark has made evident that Jesus is Lord over demons, sickness, nature, and life itself. But now Jesus enters his own hometown and he is merely seen as Joseph and Mary’s boy. Mark says that Jesus was baffled at their unbelief. Yet, these people had known Jesus his entire life… but had they?
So many Peruvians, and people throughout the world have “known” Jesus their entire lives. They can tell you the Christmas story. They can even recall the gospel account and the crucifixion story. But my friend and I conversed about something today that I hope resonates in her heart tonight. I shared with her, “I can’t help but read this and think, do I really know Jesus? Do I know him not as Baby Jesus or as the main character in all of these Bible stories I have grown up hearing, but do I know him as Lord over everything? When someone knows Jesus as Lord over everything, their life can’t help but change.”
I am reading through a book right now called The King Jesus Gospel. It is reshaping my view of how I share the message of Christ with others. Jesus is King. Jesus coming as a baby is part of that story, but the beginning happened long before that with the people of Israel. This Christmas I have been able to share my faith with a friend. I don’t know where she is on her journey with God, but I am confident that God is using me to help guide her in that process of seeking him.
So this Christmas, when you see the nativity scene, don’t automatically think in terms of, “Oh, I see this every year.” Think about the fact that the glory of God took on flesh and became a baby born in the most humble conditions. He dwelt among us in order to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament and to teach us that he is the King of Kings. That is an incredible Christmas story.