Lily and I had been friends for several months and I looked for ways to spend time with her. Christmas was approaching and as I wanted to bake cookies for our family and friends, I invited Lily over with the promise of lots of cookies as payment for her help. She readily accepted.
Lily and I worked to roll cookie dough, melt chocolate, and strategically place tiny Christmas bells on dozens and dozens of cookies as I shared with her the story behind the Christmas celebration. My telling of the Christmas story was sprinkled with comments such as, “Can you hand me the baking soda?” and “Don’t add too much flour as it makes the cookies too hard.” Stories and cookies go well together.
“Have you ever heard that story of Isa (Jesus) before?” I asked Lily. “No,” she replied, and we kept talking as I packed cookies in containers for her to take home.
We continued to meet a couple times a month over a meal, a movie or taking walks around our beautiful city. Our friendship was a strange one at best; she was a Muslim, I was a Christian. I was born in the United States, and she had never left her city. I was twenty years her senior, married with children and she was still single, visiting her parents in the village on weekends. In spite of the differences, our friendship blossomed. We got together often that year.
The next year, I invited her again to make cookies at my house. I asked her if she remembered the story of the birth of Christ and she told it back to me just as she had heard it the year before! Then the questions came: “Do you believe it was a miraculous birth? Why did God plan for Isa to be born in a stable? Why was Herod so determined to kill him? Is this a true story? Really?”
I had invited Lily and several other people over for a Christmas Day meal, but as several things came up, I decided to cancel the meal. A few days earlier my husband had to make an unexpected trip back to the US, two of my children couldn’t make it home for the holidays and our youngest was sick in bed with an unexplained fever. What was to be a day of celebration seemed to be one of calamity.
My mood was cloudy and sullen. I didn’t feel like having company. I didn’t feel like celebrating at all!
“I just can’t do this, Lord. What a poor witness I will be for my Muslim and Christian friends today. I do not have the strength nor the joy to celebrate and tell the story of your birth today. I just can’t!”
I waited for Him to speak. He whispered to me, “My grace is sufficient for you TODAY.” His words flooded my soul with peace and a renewed strength to get to work, His work. As I prepared the meal, I began to think of our lives like a pair of lifeless mittens lying on a table. We are useless unless the hand of God fills us and brings us to life, an abundant life, filled with His Spirit, His strength, His joy.
My thoughts began to turn and give Him praise for all that He is, all He did for me and all that He will do.
My guests came, we prayed, ate, and then sat around the table, laughing, talking, asking questions and discussing the topic of God well into the night.
It was a wonderful day. A day of sustaining grace. A day of amazing grace.
The last person to leave was my friend Lily. As she was putting on her shoes, she looked at me and said, “I want to know more. I want to study your book and go to church with you.”
As she studied God’s Word and learned of his love for her, God touched her heart. My friend Lily is now my sister in Christ. The simple act of making Christmas cookies together, plus a little faithfulness on my part, opened up the possibility for Lily to meet God. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!
TM is a VOM staff member. She lived for many years in Malaysia and Indonesia before coming to VOM.