While there are many differences between South Asian and Gulf Arabian cultures, holiday celebrations have some things in common: visiting friends and neighbors, sharing sweet treats and wearing new clothes. E and his family have used these similarities between their homeland in South Asia and their new home in the Gulf to spread the joy of their faith.
Six days before Christmas, E and his family begin baking cakes and making South Asian sweets and snacks – laddoo, jalebi, somas, murukku. On Christmas, in new clothes, E brings to their Arab neighbors whole platters full of these treats as well as boxed sets of frankincense, myrrh and gold-foil covered sweets. As is customary, the neighbors invite E to sit with them over tea or coffee and chat.
Frankincense and myrrh are commonly found in the region; many Arabs are delighted to learn that these gifts are part of the traditional Christmas story.
In similar ways, E and his family also celebrate Eid al-Adha; their neighbors’ initial surprise allows E to show that the sacrifice of Abraham’s firstborn foreshadows the sacrifice of Jesus. Through giving sweets on Easter, E has been able to share the reason for his hope to many neighbors who were previously unfamiliar with this holiday or its significance. By being joyful neighbors, E and his family have seen God open doors among their neighbors.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23): Great God, we thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We thank You for bearing fruit in the lives of E’s family and others like them in the Gulf states.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8): Lord, we ask that as Gulf Arabs enjoy Christmas gifts of food, You will open their eyes to see Your goodness in new ways. Let them be blessed by finding refuge in You.
Ask God how else to pray.
A well-known Arabic proverb says that even someone who lives in the seventh house away from your house is your neighbor. Present a special Christmas gift to one of your neighbors.