What makes Christmas the delightful and joyful season it is? The food, sweets, presents, decorations, and carols? Yes, yes and yes. But what makes it truly extraordinary is the Christmas service; the message of hope, love and sacrifice. The spirit of Christmas was alive across all the India congregations of the New Apostolic Church India. Each, looking forward to their time of praise and worship and a message that would remind them of their God and the most precious gift that He gave them, His Son Jesus. So let us see how congregations in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas.
Christmas Bells in Belagavi
People in the small little church in Ghodgeri village, Belagavi, Karnataka, were excited to celebrate Christmas. Ghodgeri is home to farmers who toil tirelessly on their fields and laborers who travel to other towns for their livelihood. Church members started preparing for Christmas well in advance; Sunday school children practiced songs, sweets were prepared, and the church was given a thorough cleaning.
Christmas Day finally arrived. The church was packed as members brought guests, too. Many came dressed in new clothes. The old and young alike were filled with excitement. Families sat together. Colourful decorations adorned the walls. Bishop Fred Marihal conducted the Divine Service. He read from Luke 1:37-38, For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
At the core of the sermon was Mary who believed and accepted the message from the angel and humbly surrendered herself to God’s will. She willingly became a tool in God’s hand and gave birth to Jesus. Whatever the angel promised her was fulfilled. Bishop Marihal went on to explain that similarly, everyone present had received many promises from God. Some may seem impossible but if each of them believed, obeyed, trusted and surrendered like Mary did, every promise would be fulfilled, as nothing was impossible with God.
The service was followed by Christmas celebrations with lots of singing, merriment and firecrackers.
Christmas Caroling in Ghughus
When the sweet sounds of singing and rejoicing filled Chandrapur, Maharashtra, it was not even Christmas yet! The members therechurch started their carol singing rounds way ahead of Christmas. There was song, dance and everyone was preparing for Christmas to arrive. The Ghughus church is surrounded by trees and the people of the region are known for their generous and kind hearts. Three hundred people crowded in the church for the Christmas service. People came in new clothes and wore happy smiles. The Sunday school children enacted a skit and the youth did a special dance and skit. The message encouraged the congregation to prepare for the return of Christ, forgive their enemies, and realize the will of God, and follow the Apostolate. Neighbours were invited to share the special Christmas biryani and the delicious Christmas cake.
Mallampeta’s Memorable Christmas
The people of Mallampeta consider themselves blessed: Their village has a population of 3000 people with a waterfall at its heart, a thick forest on one side and hills on the other side. Members from ten congregations came together to celebrate Christmas, and everyone came in colourful clothes. They decided not to erect any tents but to have an open air Divine Service – the congregation and the sky above. The Sunday school children started the program with a dance after which the youth put up a cultural program. The choir sang some beautiful songs to prepare for the Divine Service.
After a very inspiring message, the members feasted on a tasty lunch prepared by the sisters group. In the evening many members joined the prison ministry team and visited the prison. They exchanged gifts and sweets with the prisoners.
Every member went home filled with a new sense of purpose believing nothing is impossible with God.
Sainik Nagar’s Sweet Christmas
Sainik Nagar in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, is commonly known as the City of Nawabs. It is one of the most developed cities in UP and known for its Mughalai cuisine. The members came excitedly to be part of the Christmas service. There was an exciting program planned – a nativity skit, the Divine Service, games, gift distribution, youth activities and lunch.
Similar to the other congregations across India, Sainik Nagar also dwelt on Luke 1:37-38 which hinged around the assurance that nothing is impossible to God. They were reminded about Mary and her obedience to God. Everyone present enjoyed the singing, service and skits. After their hearts were nourished, they all enjoyed fellowship over a delicious Christmas feast.
Though Christmas Day came and went, the truth that nothing is impossible with God will stay with with the NAC India members forever.