This Year, Give the Gift of a First Christmas

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My wife and I had our first child back in August, and this is going to be her first Christmas. Now, she’s still too little to understand all the excitement, to grasp the meaning of gifts and time with family, to hear and understand the gospel story and reflect on the advent. At most, she’s just mesmerized by the Christmas lights. Nevertheless, we’re doing everything we can to make her first Christmas special.

Somewhere in the middle of our preparations for Christmas this year with our little girl, the thought crossed my mind that there are so many other people around us who have never experienced their first Christmas. That may sound odd, but I’m willing to bet you have a neighbor or coworker that has yet to experience Christmas, and I’m not talking about a newborn.

a world with no christmas

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last several years, you have seen the headlines and you have heard the commotion about the rise in immigration to the United States. The U.S. is by far the largest recipient country of immigration in the world, with almost 45 million foreign born residents in our country. Many of these people coming to the U.S. do so from countries that also have a Christian background. While they may have their own unique way of celebrating (a lot of the folk down here in Houston love Christmas tamales!), they have experienced Christmas in some way. However, many who immigrate to the U.S. today do so from places where Christmas doesn’t really exist.

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In places and among people unreached by the gospel, Christmas remains a mystery.

I served as a missionary in one such place. I lived in an almost exclusively Muslim country in West Africa, and it was a world with no Christmas. As December rolled around, there were no decorations. Shops were not hanging lights or garland. There were no trees in windows (there weren’t really any windows), and stores were not running sales on Christmas presents. No songs, no Santas, no nativity scenes. Nothing.

Of course, my team and our tiny churches we had planted in the surrounding villages would celebrate together, but the broader culture had no concept, no memory, no experience with Christmas. For them, it was a distant thing Americans (and Europeans) did that involved some guy in a red suit.

giving the gift of a first christmas

Today, you most likely have a neighbor with that same distant understanding. They could be from West Africa with a Muslim background. Or, they could be South Asian with a Hindu or Buddhist background. In places and among people unreached by the gospel, Christmas remains a mystery.

With that in mind, I’d like to issue a challenge to you and your family. This year, give the gift of a first Christmas to someone.

Christmas is, after all, the time when we celebrate the first advent of our Savior and look forward in anticipation of his return. Behind the gifts, the garland, and the glad tidings is the greatest story ever told. You know the story, and Christmas is one of the easiest times of the year to share it with others. Consider that neighbor or coworker who comes from a place unfamiliar with Christmas. This is the perfect time to share traditions in such a way that you can share the gospel.

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Christmas is, after all, the time when we celebrate the first advent of our Savior and look forward in anticipation of his return. Behind the gifts, the garland, and the glad tidings is the greatest story ever told.

Have you ever considered inviting someone, perhaps a whole family, to be a part of your Christmas experience? Inviting someone into your Christmas festivities creates so many opportunities for fruitful Great Commission ministry. First, it opens your doors through hospitality. As you welcome people into your home and your life, you build a foundation for further ministry. Second, you have the opportunity for dialogue. Christmas is a perfect time to find out what someone else believes through hearing their stories about holidays and celebrations. In like manner, it is the perfect way to share about the significance of the gospel.

If you’re hearing my challenge but at a loss for where you might find someone to gift a first Christmas, there are many easy ways to do so. As I mentioned above, you probably already have neighbors, community members, or coworkers who come from a background that does not celebrate Christmas. If you already know them, consider inviting them over for a meal or a portion of your holiday experience. If you do not know someone, consider reaching out to your local college or university. Most institutions now have international students, and many are looking for ways that these students can interact with American families and experience culture here in the States. Some even offer programs where you can adopt an international student for a holiday and have them participate.

As you and your family prepare to celebrate the birth of our King, know there is really no better way to do so than by sharing the news of his coming with someone who has never heard.


Keelan Cook is an Instructor of North American Missiology for Southeastern and serves in the Center for Great Commission Studies as the Coordinator of Diaspora Missions. He also serves as the Senior Church Consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB. He and his wife Meredith live in Houston.

Photo courtesy of IMB.

Keelan Cook

Director of the CGCS

Keelan Cook is the Director for the Center for Great Commission studies. He also serves as instructor of North American missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as the Associate Director for the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. Keelan’s areas of focus cover both North American and international missions. He teaches and writes on church renewal and replanting as well as developing healthy sending culture in churches. He has a passion for mobilizing the church to the nations, and a love for missions history. He leads the Peoples Next Door project, which is an initiative to equip local churches in North America to engage in cross-cultural missions among the least-reached peoples that now live in our communities. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethnographic research in Washington, DC with NAMB.

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