For most Christians in the West, the leadup to Christmas is often an occasion marked by some of our most precious traditions. But for Christians around the world, it’s not quite so simple. Sisters and brothers in Christ, all over the globe, will celebrate Christmas this year. But they will do so secretly, with a heavy heart, courageously in a culture that discriminates against them, or even with a mixture of triumph and mourning.

Christmas for secret believers can be a time of loneliness, their hearts filled with sadness instead of joy. “We can’t celebrate Christmas openly like other believers here. We can’t go to church and join in the celebration,” shares a secret believer from a Muslim background. “Why? Because we are wanted by the government. Some of us can’t even tell our families that we are Christians.” To encourage them, Open Doors started a Christmas gift project. A month before Christmas, our staff went around town, shopping for gifts for secret believers, both adults, and children.

They bought a variety of presents and packed them into bags. They also inserted letters and cards from supporters of Open Doors from all over the world. “Cards drawn by children were the most attractive,” says an Open Doors staff member who helped put together the Christmas packages. “Their simple words and prayers spoke to me, even though they were for secret believers.”

Just a few days ago, about two weeks before Christmas, the packages were distributed to house church leaders who, in turn, will give them to their members when the church groups meet for Christmas in their homes. These gatherings were held on any day except for Christmas day, just to avoid arousing neighbours’ suspicion. Decorations were only found inside the house, and guests were limited to their house church members and some outsiders they could trust. Open Doors was extended an invitation for having earned their trust.

Celebrating boldly

In one home, the exterior looked as normal as any other day, but inside it felt like Christmas. The interior was decorated in bright red and green—the colours of Christmas in this unnamed country, just as it is in Canada. The hosts were also dressed in traditional red and green wear. Their leader shared, “Let’s boldly celebrate now because we have nothing to fear in the Lord.” In another gathering, a leader encouraged his house church members. “You are not alone,” he told them. “We are your family. Be strong in what you are facing in your family for we are with you.” This message was echoed through the Christmas gifts and cards given by Open Doors. “Thank you for your encouragement to us!” said a secret believer to Open Doors—and the larger body of Christ around the world.

Our Gifts of Hope are delivering hope to believers living in these difficult circumstances. Join us in sending them hope and assurance that they are not alone!