Guest post: A Tale of Two Christmases

A Tale of Two Christmases
By Jinghong Cai

Edited by China Aid

On Christmas Eve 2014, eight Chinese Christians, including their pastor, gathered at a church member’s house, preparing a dinner to celebrate this greatest Christian holiday. Policemen suddenly showed up, arrested three of them, and confiscated the musical instruments used for singing hymns to praise the Lord. The three church members were detained at the police station for 5, 10 and 12 days respectively. The story was reported by China Aid, a Chinese Christian organization based in the United States.

While I don’t have hard evidence, I believe stories like this are all too common in China. The Chinese authorities tolerate Christmas celebrations for their commercial “value,” i.e., Santa Claus and economic prosperity, but are intolerant of any celebration of the real meaning of Christmas. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ—“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) When we celebrate Christmas, we openly share our joy with the whole world, because “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

During my first year at Peking University, Ms. Norris, our American English teacher, secretly took me and other students, about 10 of us, to a small church on Christmas day. The church was tucked away behind a station where charcoal was sold. The building was shabby and dark both inside and out, but a candle on the pulpit, wrapped in red cloth, illuminated the whole sanctuary. About seven or eight elderly people quietly clustered in the front rows close to the pulpit, leaving us a large space at the back of the room. No music. No one sang a hymn. The pastor told the story of the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Although this was the first time I heard about Jesus Christ, I was so touched that I had tears in my eyes. The pastor didn’t give me Communion because when I was asked whether I had been baptized, my answer was “No, I haven’t.”

I have no better words to explain it, but that day I strongly felt Jesus calling me. I secretly promised myself that one day I would be baptized and become a Christian. After two decades, I miraculously came to the United States, a land blessed by God, and was baptized in a beautiful small town in the great Rocky Mountains.

In 2014, I had an unusual Christmas, in the religious sense, at my first home church in Ohio. Our church is going through a transitional stage—the property was sold, and the congregation had to rent a movie theater as a temporary place of worship. Our Christmas sermon started with Karaoke, singing Christmas hymns with cinema sound effects—“Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” etc. The church members clapped, hugged each other, and rejoiced.

I thank God for His amazing grace; I also pray for His blessing to and protection of Christians in China. I would like to repeat the prayer from Tang Jingling, who is still behind bars this Christmas. Tang is a Christian lawyer who sought justice and defended the oppressed and for that was arrested by the Chinese government on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” He has been in prison since June 2014.

“Blessings should also go to those fellow citizens who are not willing to give up their swords, which shed our blood, and their chains because those who enslave others are not free themselves. Christ has opened His bosom to you. You must know the truth, and truth will bring freedom to you.

Jinghong Cai is a PhD Candidate in the field of Education at a university in the U.S. and a guest contributor at China Aid. You may follow her on Twitter at @jhcai613 or visit her blog at
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