As a child, I loved the song Go, Tell It on the Mountain*, maybe because it seemed more modern than some of the other carols and had a great, spirited chorus. It made you want to get up and go tell the story of Christ’s birth.
Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and ev’ry-where; Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Sharing the story of the nativity is sharing the story of salvation. Yet, not everyone hears it the same way, nor do they all accept.
Last night we held our last ESL lesson for the year, so I wanted to do something special for our students. I made a booklet for them to take home which contained the Christmas story from the gospels using the Good News translation of the Bible. After serving cookies and hot chocolate, the teachers took turns reading the story, as the students underlined words they didn’t understand. After each section, I let them ask questions.
One dear man wanted to know why God would make Mary, pregnant as she was, to walk all that way to Bethlehem. Why couldn’t Jesus have been born anywhere else? Why did she have to suffer? Why could it not have been easier?
How do you use simple words to explain sin and suffering, God’s love and salvation? I did my best, but I could see the anguish in his eyes as he poured out his heart, questioning why God allows such suffering. After all, he’s God; he can easily make everything better.
Then it hit me. This dear man comes from a country that has been ravaged by war and corruption. His people are suffering in ways we can never imagine. He had every right to question God, and yet, I knew the answer was still found in that simple Christmas story. The carol says it:
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born, and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
As we continued to review the lesson, I asked if this story is believable. My dear suffering friend was finding it hard, but one of my sweet Muslim ladies said, “Yes, I believe it!” She then realized that she had better check her words, since the other ladies might not agree, so she hesitantly glanced at them. I looked their way too, and asked, “do you find this story believable?” “Yes,” they answered, “it is very believable.” A big smile came across the first woman’s face. I smiled too.
We ended our time by singing for them two songs: We Wish You a Merry Christmas (which they wanted repeated as they sang along) and then Silent Night.
They left us that night with hugs and kisses and a Bible and candy cane to carry home. How we go and tell it may vary, but we’re always blessed when we do. May you find ways to share the simple and profound story of Christmas with others in the days ahead.
*WORDS: John W. Work, Jr., 1872-1925. MUSIC: Negro spiritual; harm. John W. Work, III, 1901-1967.