You know, I think people are far more receptive to spiritual conversation than most of us Christians give them credit for.
Over the Christmas holidays, Donna and I held a neighbourhood Christmas party for our street. For those new to this blog, my immediate neighbours include a Chinese Buddhist, a family of Indian Sikhs, numerous Sri Lankan Hindu families and Anglo-Australians of various stripes.
Anticipating that for some of them it may have been the first Christmas party they were ever invited to, we wanted to create space for spiritual conversations without coming over as being pushy in any way. So we let the symbols do the talking. We put up some Christ focused decorations (stars and angels and nativity scenes) that expressed our Christian orientation in as creative a way as possible – then left the rest to the Spirit.
Well, before the afternoon was over we started fielding spontaneous
questions about our Christian faith from our neighbours and watched as
they burst out into spiritual discussion. It was amazing to behold. We
learned much about their spiritual journeys and were welcomed to clear
up a few misconceptions about our own. As people warmed to each other
we received encouragement from many who asked us if we could do it
again next year.
An even bigger surprise was the response from our Christian
neighbours – one (previously unknown) neighbour invited by friends down
the road turned out to be a senior figure in the Australian
Coptic-Orthodox church – and though he could not make it on the day he
warmly responded to our open invite and has since welcomed me into his
home where we engaged in a fascinating conversation on alternate
strands of Christianity with the promise of more ecumenical
conversations to come. Another neighbour who had recently moved in
turned out to be a widow working for Moore Collage, the Sydney Anglican
theological seminary. Both were hungry to network with other Christians
in the area even though we come from different strands and I found this
ecumenical acceptance quite heartwarming.
That’s where I gazed upon the Christ child this Christmas.