It’s almost Christmas! You might have decorated your house with Christmas ornaments, your child may have a Christmas celebration at their school, and the topic of Christmas might be the subject most talked about among neighbours and friends. For the families of Iran’s house churches, all these are not possible – they must celebrate Jesus’ birthday in secret. Elahe*, a mother in Iran shares how they make Christmas a memory despite all the dangers.
Our children don’t even talk to their closest friends about the Christmas celebration we have at home. Christmas is the time of year that we are monitored by the intelligence agents most. Many Christians are arrested for celebrating Christmas, so we must be careful.
The terror that the intelligence agents have created by arresting Christians in Iran has never prevented us from celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus with our children. Because this is one of our most important celebrations in Christianity, we want to express our joy to God and other Christians by keeping the celebration a tradition in our church.
Small groups and soft voices
We don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December like most other Christians. This would be too dangerous. But this doesn’t make the celebration we have on another day less joyful. For instance, my daughter’s birthday is in January, and we often celebrate her birthday and Christmas together to avoid suspicion.
We would love to celebrate Christmas with the whole church but, for security reasons, we celebrate in smaller groups. We think of a cover story (like celebrating my daughter’s birthday) and sing our songs with soft voices.
Our children have a task too during these celebrations, they sing and dance or perform a nativity play for us. Apart from the service we also eat together and have fun. We even have gifts, for both the adults and the children. In my church there is no money for big gifts like toys for the children. We use our creativity. For instance, we give each other a card with a Bible text.
Limitations and chances
We might not be celebrating Christmas under the best circumstances, but we have accepted the conditions prevailing in Iran and we are happy with our small celebrations in security and peace. At least we are together, albeit in small numbers. We have a motto in our church: 'Limitations bring out creativity'. We try to celebrate our Lord Jesus with little resources.
In the house church we have limited resources, but sharing is also part of our Christmas tradition. This year, Iran's economic situation is very bad. For this reason, we have prepared food packages with items such as rice and oil for families who are in financial difficulties. We also give food packages along with Christmas cards or the Bible to those in need and the homeless.
It is true that our Christmas gifts are inexpensive, but it is important that just as we received the greatest gift of God to save mankind, we should also have a giving heart, love and serve, and make others happy.
*Name changed for security reasons
- When families of Iran’s house churches celebrate Jesus’ birthday in secret, ask God to protect them and give them joy and peace.
- Pray that the house churches will continue to powerfully equip believers for serving Jesus.
- Pray for God to open the eyes of the authorities to see that Christians are not a threat to Iran but a valuable part of Iranian society.
A GIFT FOR A PERSECUTED CHILD
Will you give hope to persecuted children this Christmas?
MY GIFT TO CHILDREN
- Every HK$200 could provide a month’s education to a child impacted by persecution
- Every HK$530 could support a child at the Colombia Children’s Centre, giving safety, education and a future
- Every HK$720 could give Bibles to ten children, so they can know Jesus through Scripture.