Christmas is a global holiday, perhaps the most global of all.
For TEAM missionaries around the world, it’s a unique opportunity to share Christ in post-Christian cultures or among communities that are normally reluctant to discuss the gospel.
Each year, TEAM workers find myriad creative ways to publicly celebrate Christmas, in addition to the many (likely a majority) who invite friends and neighbors into their homes for a meal or small celebration.
Here’s a look at just a few of the ways our people are reaching out for Christmas this year:
TEAM missionaries in Japan take Christmas to a whole other level. In the mountain resort town of Karuizawa, staff and volunteers at a TEAM-partnered conference center build a colossal Christmas lights display that has become a tourist attraction in itself. As many as 28,000 visitors drive to see the lights each year. Organizers share hot cider and teach about the meaning of Christmas. See the lights below, in a video submitted by a TEAM missionary in Japan.
Elsewhere in the same town, which throws a winter festival each year, TEAM workers and volunteers dress as Santa and his elves, walking the streets while passing out candy and sharing about Christ. Japan is crazy about Santa, so it’s a natural conversation starter. Last year, they handed out 30,000 pamphlets that explain the true meaning of Christmas. This is on top of other Christmas activities in Japan including outreaches to university students and special events at a coffee shop in Tokyo.
In Swaziland, TEAM workers are using Christmas as an opportunity to reach out to orphaned and vulnerable children, who by some estimates make up nearly 10 percent of the population. The annual event brings children to a missionary’s home for lots of food, fun games, small gifts, and a telling of the Christmas story. For many of the children, it’s a family-like celebration they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience.
At a community center in Athens, TEAM workers help with two giant “Christmas Love Meals” put on by our ministry partner Hellenic Ministries. These meals — one for Arab refugees in the city and one for European nationals — also offer music and games for kids, and basic gifts like blankets, shoes and modest toys. The hundreds who attend these meals also hear the gospel story.
In many Muslim-majority countries (but not all), Christmas is an allowable holiday, if not widely celebrated. In one large Muslim-majority city in particular, TEAM workers help organize a major Christmas outreach that includes special events for women and children and a Christmas bazaar, where vendors sell crafts and Christmas decorations. We’ll have more next week on how TEAM workers in Muslim contexts celebrate Christmas and use it to start conversations about faith.