We danced the dance.
We preached The Message.
200 stood to pray.
And one was smiling on Christmas Day.
It always surprises me. Maybe it shouldn’t. How everything seems to work out perfectly in the end. Such was the case of the “Three Stories Skit,” a drama created from scratch by our DTS outreach team about two weeks before we left for Thailand. It started as a simple idea from one of our students: What if we told more than just the Christmas story? What if we told three? A three-fold story that goes back to the Garden of Eden, then forward to the Christmas story, and finally finishing with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And before long our little idea had morphed into a simple yet wonderfully choreographed production, complete with script, storyboard, music, and props–even a little blue-eyed baby doll, suspiciously doubling as Jesus. We all knew our parts. We all felt a special peace that this skit was something special. We all boarded the plane to Asia.
A few weeks later, I’m sitting inside a cozy little cafe halfway around the world. The cafe smells of coffee and chocolate chip cookies, and its yellow walls are warm and inviting like the tropical weather outside. “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” is playing from the stereo but somehow I know it’s not in the cards for us this year. Across the table from me is a Brazilian missionary and his wife. He’s a retired soccer player, she plays tennis. I’m not sure if she’s a professional or not. Gosh, I love Brazilians. They’re sitting here with me at the cafe so we can meet each other and plan out a Christmas Day program for next week. I don’t know any details yet, except there’s a high school with several hundred students that would like us to come and share about Christmas. Of course, as good YWAMers, we can’t help but tell them the full story. Stopping at the end of the Christmas story is like pausing a good movie partway through and never finishing it. “So, I will do the preaching,” he begins, “and maybe you can sing some songs, or do a drama or something fun–whatever you like.” I really like this guy, he’s strong, he’s gentle yet also direct, and he speaks with an accent that’s smooth and intriguing like Liz’s boyfriend at the end of Eat, Pray, Love. I listen, intrigued, as he continues. “The thing is, I don’t just want to preach about the birth of Jesus–first, I want to go back and…” Somehow, I know what he’s going to say next, and my heart begins to fill with so much joy at the way God works. “I want to go back and talk about Adam and Eve and The Fall, and then I’ll tell them the story of Christmas, then l want to tell them the good news about Jesus and maybe have an altar call. And I was thinking maybe you can do something to highlight that message. So, what do you think you and your team would like to do?” I can’t hide my grin any longer, “I have something to tell you,” I begin. I can’t wait to tell him about the skit we brought with us all the way from Montana. The skit with the same three matching stories. “But first, I want you to know that God’s been planning this day for a while now.”
We woke up early, even for Christmas Day. We loaded up into the backs of two Songthaews, our thai-style taxis, and we drive an hour and a half through the misty jungle and rice paddies of Northern Thailand to a little town with a high school that had a few hundred students who want to hear about the story of Christmas. We sing them some Christmas songs, we teach them our favorite dance moves, and we perform our Three Stories Skit. When the skit is over we perform it a second time, but this time we do it without any music while our handsome Brazilian explains all three scenes to them, one by one. First, he explains the story of Adam and Eve and The Fall, and our need for a Rescuer. Then Christmas, God’s gift of a special child to rescue the world. And then the rest of the story, the life and death and life-again of Jesus. When he’s finished, he asks the crowd of students and teachers “How many of you believe this story could be true?” Every student raises their hand. “How many of you would like to pray to Jesus, and receive this kind of love for your life?” Every student stands to their feet. Not one is left sitting on the floor. He leads them in a simple prayer asking Jesus to invade their hearts with his love. Everyone prays. Even the teacher nearest to me bows his head and prays along with the rest of the giant room. As I watch the focused intensity on his face as he whispers the words with eyes closed, I wonder just what God is up to on this Christmas morning. I wonder what he will do in the hearts and lives of all these people that he loves. And I realize that this is why I came to Thailand. And this is better than everything I might’ve given up to come here. This is the reason we keep telling the Christmas story. This is the reason we tell the other two. It’s because they’re all part of the same grand story, the greatest story of all time.
Earlier, when I was sitting crouched at the front of the auditorium, an actor in a play with three scenes and one big story, with Mary at my side and a little baby in her arms, a thought came to me as I listened to my new Brazilian friend telling this story to the two hundred strangers sitting in front of me…tales of a beautiful man and woman and a forbidden fruit, and rich wise kings from distant lands and a baby king in a poor stable, and a man who gave up everything to show the world the vast power and greatness of his love. And through each twist of the story: a God in love. A God with a plan. A plan to rescue his people and show them how much he loves them. “Wow,” I thought, as I held my actor’s pose and stared into the eyes of that blue-eyed baby doll, “I really love this story!” A soft smile rested easily on that baby’s face. I checked back later, and that doll is still smiling. And I think the real baby Jesus is a lot like that baby doll, he’s smiling today, too. With 200 more people in on your story, wouldn’t you?
[If you haven’t heard the full story in a while, or ever…then read the first three chapters of Genesis, the second chapter of Luke, and all of John. Three scenes from the greatness love story the world has ever known.]