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Christmas and Communion

During China's Cultural Revolution, Christians were often sentenced to hard labor in prison camps. Maintaining their faith was hard, and expressing it was harder. But for one man, Christmas was not complete without Communion. The significance of Jesus' birth and death made celebrating the Lord's Supper on a cold Christmas Day worth the risk.

Christmas 1961 found the prisoners working on earthen walls around rice paddies in zero temperatures. Wind howled over the frozen ground.

One prisoner approached his supervisor. Could he have some time off from work since it was Christmas? The guard gave him permission, warning him to beware the warden. The old man walked into a gully, out of sight, out of the wind. He built a small fire and began to celebrate Christmas.

A few minutes later the friendly guard saw the warden headed straight for them. He hurried over to warn the old prisoner, just in time to see him sipping something from a chipped cup, eating a bite of bread.

When the warden arrived, all he saw were a prisoner and a guard huddled by a small fire. But the prisoner had completed his Christmas celebration, not with a banquet or with sweets, but with a cold cup and a cold crust—with Communion. His celebration of Christmas demanded Communion.

The birth of God's Son would leave us cold, if not for the death of Jesus, enfolding us in the warm glow of his mercy. Our celebration of his birth needs to be wrapped in the swaddling clothes of God's grace. Our awe at Advent is not [just] that he came at all, but that he came to be crucified.

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