It is illegal to celebrate Christmas in Saudi Arabia. It is illegal to build or have any building that resembles a church. It is illegal to wear any jewelry or clothes that have any Christian connotation, like a cross, dove, or icthus (fish sign). It is illegal for Jews to live and work in Saudi Arabia. It is illegal for anyone to express any opposition to Islam in Saudi Arabia.
Thanks to Open Doors, a non-denominational human rights organization committed to helping persecuted Christians worldwide, a glimpse inside of an illegal Christmas service held by Indian Christians living and working in Saudi Arabia was made possible.
Open Doors has been posting a series of “Christmas in a Closed Country” stories on its website about Christians who are forced to hide their faith in Jesus Christ because of where they live.
Recently, one of its staffers joined about 100 Christian Indians at their Christmas Eve service, who were secretly celebrating Christmas in Saudi Arabia. Inside, the room was decorated with lights, balloons, paper stars, and ‘Merry Christmas’ signs. There was even one decorated Christmas tree.
Image Credit: Open DoorsThroughout the service, many worshippers took turns singing Christmas hymns and songs in their native language. Most attendees:
… have low-paying jobs in large Saudi companies or households; they are construction workers, stone cutters, electricians and cleaners. But tonight, there are no differences between them: these men and women are followers of Christ about to be encouraged and then sent back into the world with a calling to spread the light of Jesus everywhere they go.
… there is always the risk of being raided by the police, which can lead to imprisonment and forced repatriation.
The pastor (whose day job is not being a pastor) preached a sermon during which he encouraged the congregants to live out their faith despite their circumstances. He encouraged them to witness to their non-Christian Saudi neighbors. He admonished:
Are we limiting Christmas to four weeks a year? Is it only about the Christmas tree and the Christmas party?
How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you acknowledge what it is really about? Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, about Mary who was blessed with a Child, about the shepherds who came to worship him. Let us circulate those things instead of the useless stuff about Christmas.
God wants to use you. Now it’s Christmas, but every other day of your life is meant to share His gift of life with the people around you. Every day can be Christmas if you are willing to obey Him when He says: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’
After the sermon, the children (who were dressed up as biblical characters from Luke 2) helped present a birthday cake to Jesus and sang the traditional English Christmas son, “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin; we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!”