As Christmas gets closer, Christians all around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the church in Syria is no exception. Pastor Edward (pictured below) from Damascus shares how Syrians are preparing for their Christmas celebrations and how he wants to focus on the real message of Christmas.
"Christmas is a challenging thing," he says. "Now people want to express their joy and they want to celebrate Christmas in a very big way. It's a challenge, because sometimes it really distracts people from what Christmas is really about. The people want to have parades, they want to have Santa Claus, they want to have big parties – especially now, after the difficult years.
"We’re encouraged to do so by our environment; the government gives us all the freedom to celebrate and supports such celebrations, which is good, which is amazing. But the challenge is really to bring up the real message of Christmas, the message of love, the message of incarnation. The message: there is a Saviour who came and who really lived among us. This message must come out these days. So we will definitely try to do both – celebrate and have our special Christmas folklore or Christmas celebrations, but at the same time make sure that Jesus, the Christmas hero, is really glorified."
JOY AND PAIN AT CHRISTMASTIME
Pastor Edward says that Christmas can be ‘a great way to attract people and to really get their attention’.
"So we try our best by God's grace. I have a wonderful team, they have ideas [for] how to really get the attention of the people and bring the message in a very relevant way to their suffering and to their pain. This is very, very crucial. How can one celebrate and at the same time be full of wounds inside? This is a contradiction in some way. But it seems the real Christmas 2000 years ago was the same. When Christ was born it wasn't Christmas celebrations all over. When He was born it was dark and it was hostility all around. There were broken hearts and pain everywhere; that is what justifies His work. This is why He came. Because this is our situation. So we really like to shed light on how the message of Christmas can be the answer to our pain and the hostilities that are going on around us.
"My Christmas wish for this year - from the bottom of my heart my wish, with no hesitation or with no second thought - is to find the church of Jesus Christ inside my country as one body in real genuine unity standing up for the truth and glorying Jesus. When the church is healthy in the country that's a great promise for the rest of the country."
STILL HERE BY THE POWER OF YOUR PRAYERS AND SUPPORT
"Prayer is what really energizes the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the life of the church and in the life of the people who we pray for. So prayer is definitely very important… Because the work is divine. The work means power much over our human abilities. This is good enough reason to show that prayer is a very major thing, a very important thing. And we can see that the divine interventions happen along with prayers. It helps the people who pray and it helps the people who we pray for. So it's a win-win on all sides and the glory goes to God, because He is really the one who gives this kind of success at the end.
"For our supporters, people who really supported us all through the crisis, I want you to know that this meant a lot to us. I received a letter from a lady who said that: ‘I prayed for you every day.’ And I just told our congregation this amazing fact that we are really the body of Jesus Christ: we feel for each other and we support each other. I want to express my appreciation and I want to make sure that you know that the Lord answered your prayers, and we are still there by the power of those prayers and your support. We need your prayers. Our country is not now settled completely. We still have challenges, we have challenges as the result of the crisis. People are in grief, [they] don't know how to express their feelings.
"We thank you for your prayers and we ask you to pray for the church, the leaders of the church and the people who work in ministry to keep focused on the glory of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. And at the same time to give us the wisdom how to deal with grief and how to deal with those emotional wounds that we face every day. Again, thank you for your prayers."
STAND WITH YOUR CHURCH FAMILY IN SYRIA
Your prayers and support are keeping hope alive in Syria, enabling Open Doors local church partners like Pastor Edward to provide food for over 12,000 vulnerable families every month – thank you.
Will you continue to stand with your church family in Syria this Christmas? Your gift could provide a winter relief pack to help a vulnerable Syrian family survive, and contribute towards setting up a small business to give a mother or father the dignity of providing for their own children.
Every £26 can provide a family in Syria with a winter relief pack for a month – and right now your gift will be doubled by a generous Open Doors supporter to help twice as many vulnerable families to survive the freezing winter.
Looking for fresh resources for Christmas? Stand with your Syrian brothers and sisters and be inspired by their faith as you worship, pray and offer your gifts this season with our free Sing for Syria pack - order today in time for your carol service.
- For Pastor Edward and his church, that this Christmas would be a joyful time and that they would convey the true meaning of the festival and the light of Christ to their community
- For the work of Open Doors local church partners in Syria as they keep thousands of families alive with vital aid, that God would provide and give them His wisdom in the challenges they face
- That the church in Syria would be strengthened, so that they can minister to those who are hurting and grieving with the love of Christ.