Can you imagine what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in secret? No tree, no decorations, no carol service.
Twenty-one-year-old Nava* is an isolated believer from a Muslim background from Iran, who celebrated Christmas for the first time last year.
"From the outside, it was nothing special," she recalls. "It was just me, my mother and my little brother sitting at the dinner table, like we do each night. But this night, somehow automatically, I put down a fourth plate: for Jesus."
Nava and her family managed to get some Christmas decorations, but they had no gifts to unwrap – no physical ones. "It felt like Jesus was really, physically present. And the gifts He gave us were more precious than anything a human could give."
That first Christmas night, Nava and her family received ‘spiritual gifts’, answers to prayer. "My mother was freed from anger issues. My brother, who used to see ghosts in his bedroom, got freed from them when he called on Jesus’ name that night."
Nava herself, who was romantically involved with a married man, was set free from that relationship. "Since that day I consider myself to be a bride of Christ, and try to live accordingly."
While that first Christmas was special and passed in safety, Nava knows all too well the dangers of being a Christian and celebrating Jesus’ birth. In Iran, it's illegal to leave Islam, and those who do can receive the death sentence or be imprisoned. Every year at Christmas time, secret house churches are raided.
"I am a young believer, but I have thought the dangers through carefully. I have read other Christians’ testimonies. And yes, I can say wholeheartedly that I am ready to suffer for Christ. The Lord is my ultimate power."
Any wishes for this year’s Christmas? "I hope it will be as special as my first Christmas. It’s not about physical presents, it’s really about spending a special time with Jesus and my family."
*Name changed for security reasons
- Give thanks for Nava and her family, and pray that they would continue to walk in God's presence with boldness and courage, and that He would shield them from harm
- That Christians in Iran would be able to celebrate the birth of Christ in safety and peace, and share the light of the gospel with others
- For Iranian Christians who will be spending Christmas in prison, that they would experience God's light, love and comfort.
INVITE YOUR MP AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
You can use your voice to speak out on behalf of our persecuted family by inviting your MP to the launch of the 2019 World Watch List in Parliament on 16 January. Stephen Timms MP, who was at the 2018 World Watch List launch, said: "What's striking about Open Doors and the World Watch List initiative is just how much support there is for it from our constituents." When you speak out, you make a difference!