Christmas Eve is one of our favorite days of the year. It is a day full of light, anticipation and the hope-filled culmination of the Advent season. It is a day which means the waiting is almost over. With so much darkness all around us, and the terror attacks at the Berlin Christmas Market fresh in our minds, we were especially in need of the promise of Christmas Eve. In Germany, “Heiligabend,” as Christmas Eve is called, is a national holiday. The stores close around 1pm and the towns become still and silent. One of the neatest things about living in a culture where church and state are not separated is that the liturgy of the church year is acted out in the cultural rhythms and holidays. When the church slows down to wait for the baby Jesus to be born, the culture slows down, too. Even if many people no longer wait for the baby Jesus.
Before the Christmas Eve service at our church, we enjoyed a very special meal prepared by our Iranian refugee friends. They sought us out and invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them in their one-room apartment. Despite not having a large stove, they managed to prepare one of the most delicious meals we’ve ever had. On the menu was stuffed eggplant, pomegranate infused rice, and a juicy, spicy, slow-roasted chicken. This sweet couple spent the morning preparing traditional Iranian food while caring for a newborn baby boy. We spent 4 hours together, and the time flew by as we shared stories, laughter and swapped cross-cultural parenting tips. What a wonderful time of fellowship.
We couldn’t help but be reminded of another young couple, Mary and Joseph, and their newborn baby boy. Another refugee couple, of sorts, forced to leave their town at the most inopportune time. And even in their moment of greatest need, God proved faithful to provide for their every need. He provided a place of shelter so their baby could be born safely. He guided others toward the manger with precious gifts for the new baby. No doubt these impromptu visitors provided joy and reassurance during what might have been a frightening time for the young family. They had what they needed and they trusted God to provide.
The God of the nativity story is the same God who provides for millions of refugees across Europe and in other parts of the world. Many are in dire circumstances. But God provides for these dear ones through the generosity of strangers, through the work of the church, and through the prayers of many. We are grateful to be a part of the work God is doing in Germany to care for His people.