You never know who you’re bringing to Christmas service this year
Ever so often we look back on our decisions – good ones, bad ones, and those that fall undecidedly in between.
Whenever Christmas time draws near, I am reminded of a decision that my friend made about eight years ago in December.
On Christmas Eve, my friend Christina visited a Church for the first time.
While I would have liked to have been that friend who gave her a warm invitation to come to Church, I was actually the cowardly one who didn’t dare to ask her to come to church – even for Christmas.
Maybe I was worried she wouldn’t like it, that her INFJ personality couldn’t take it. What if Church was fun for just me? I’d visited a Church for the first time two years before she ever did. I had always wondered what Church was like, I’d returned after the first week, and then the next …
It was through an illustrated song presentation during Easter that I heard the Gospel for the first time and realised that there was a big possibility that God is real and He wanted to know me – and so I’d raised my hand in that service and welcomed Him into my heart.
At that time, I didn’t know what changes having Jesus Christ live in me would’ve brought into my life. I didn’t even know how long I was going to be a Christian for … but I tried anyway.
Perhaps I was hesitant to invite Christina – my classmate then – to Church because she knew all my bad habits: I slept in Chinese class, copied answers on my homework and skipped classes!
I wasn’t the best student around, and I certainly wasn’t a good Christian. So I didn’t see why she would want to go to Church with me. She seemed to be doing just fine.
“What do you mean I didn’t invite you?”
“I thought we were just going to the mall.”
After all these years, I had forgotten that I never really invited Christina to Church that Christmas. I had merely asked her if she would like to go to the mall the next day – which happened to be Christmas Eve.
But I remember those moments I had in class when I was wracking my brains on how to ask her to come to Church with me – and all the while she was sitting just beside me!
Yet, my guilt would drown out what little faith I had: “Aiyah, you like that, still dare to ask people to go to Church?”
My doubts were louder, and they were winning the internal battle, but urgency finally broke through when it dawned on me that Christina and I weren’t going to be classmates anymore after the year ended. I might not – might never – get another chance to bring her to Church.
It’s funny to think about now, but when the question finally escaped my lips, I found myself casually asking her to the mall instead – Suntec City, to be exact – where my Church was having our Christmas services that year. I just couldn’t say the word “Church”, as if it was taboo.
Yeah, that was me. Time was running out but I was still cowardly.
Before I tell you what happened next with Christina, there’s something I must share: As a new Christian, one of the first few things I learnt how to do was pray.
“Prayer is just talking to God, like you’re talking to a friend.”
I’m not sure how seriously I took it, but there was one night in my young Christian life when prayer was the only thing I could turn to.
I didn’t kneel on the floor by my bed or clasp my hands together, but I prayed. I opened my laptop and I typed furious prayers – like I was talking to a friend – in a text document.
Perhaps that itself was the miracle – that I was able to sleep, that I went to sleep knowing that I wasn’t alone.
My tears were falling and my fingers were hitting the keys faster than I could think. I knew that there was no one else but God who could calm the situation that was happening outside the door of my room.
That night, I didn’t hear an audible voice from God telling me that He’s real (I might have prayed for this), nor did I feel anything miraculous. To be honest, I cannot remember what happened next.
But perhaps that itself was the miracle – that I was able to sleep, that I went to sleep knowing that I wasn’t alone.
I didn’t realise how significant that night was to me then.
“It was something about hope that the pastor quoted from the book of Romans.”
Eight years after the mall invitation, I asked Christina about her decision to accept Christ that unexpected Christmas Eve. And this was one of the verses that first caught her attention:
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
And it humbled me at the moment, again.
Had Christina been searching for hope that whole time?
I was so caught up with what Christina would think about going to Church that I forgot to consider that perhaps my friend and classmate – as have-it-together as she may have seemed on the outside – might also have those nights, as I did. Nights when she felt all alone and in desperate need of a divine intervention.
How would she have been able to do that if she didn’t know God for herself?
I’m so glad that God made a way for Christina to encounter Him that day, that she didn’t walk away when she found out about my plan to bring her to Church (“Oh look, it’s a Church service in Suntec City! Let’s go in!”) and that He spoke into her heart right when she needed to hear Him most.
If I hadn’t received Jesus Christ into my life, I wouldn’t have known that there was Someone I could turn to.
And if I hadn’t persisted in asking God to show Himself real to me, and if God had let me go my own way – I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As I look back on my decisions now, I know I made the best one on April 7, 2007, when I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.
I’m sure Christina would agree that it was her best decision too, when she made it on December 24, 2009.
As for my decision not to invite her to Church earlier and more directly? Well, I can do better with the next person!
So this year, to save me from tears, I will muster up the courage to make good decisions – to invite someone to Church for Christmas, so that perhaps once again, I’d have even more reason to celebrate when they too are born again.