Many people struggle with how to begin gospel conversations. Holidays can be used as a great bridge to open doors to share the good news about Jesus. In particular, Christmas is a great gospel bridge for conversations with Muslims.
In many countries around the world, Christmas is celebrated or at least known. In Pakistan and India, Christmas is a national holiday. For those living in the West, Muslim immigrants see “Seasons Greetings” and “Merry Christmas” everywhere they go. Many Muslims are curious about our holiday. At the least, they are open to learning more about our traditions, which can be used as a door for the gospel.
Before jumping into how to use Christmas as an open door for the gospel, we need to talk about some common misunderstandings that Muslims might have when we talk about Christmas.
Misunderstanding #1. Christmas is about Santa or Christmas Trees. Several years ago, I attended a Christmas parade in a South Asian city. This city was about 20% Muslim with a Hindu majority. A few thousand Christians gathered. The parade was led by men dressed as Roman soldiers on horses and Herod the Great in a chariot. Following them were real camels with the three wise men. Then there were fifty or so trucks in the parade. The first truck was a host of young ladies dressed as angels. The second truck was a worship band with speakers playing worship songs. The third truck had a handful of pastors taking turns doing open-air preaching. The noise of all the worship bands and pastors melded together into an unidentifiable noise. This same rotation of three types of trucks was repeated for all fifty trucks. Around the trucks were a few hundred young men, dressed as Santa, handing out candy and New Testaments.
As I watched the parade, I wondered, “What do Muslims think when they see this parade.” So, I waited until the procession passed and walked up to some Muslim men to ask them what was happening. They knew it was a Christmas parade. When I asked them who the parade was about, they said it must have been the king who was in the chariot. That’s right, these Muslim men thought the Christmas parade was about Herod the Great!
Misunderstanding #2. Christmas is about Mary. In many South Asian cities, churches hold celebrations for Christmas. I remember one Catholic church that had a prominent shrine to Mary in front of it. Every Christmas, tens of thousands of Muslims and Hindus would pass through this shrine and church to respect their Christian neighbors. What they experienced was a shrine to Mary and a nun giving them a blessing. Because of the crowds, there was no opportunity to make the gospel clear. The confusion is increased because many Muslims think that the Trinity is the Father, the Son, and Mary!
Please know that the two misunderstandings above are not comprehensive. My point is that when we talk to Muslims about the Christmas story, we need to intentionally bring the focus back to Jesus.
How to Use Christmas as a Gospel Bridge
Let me share how I use Christmas as a gospel bridge with Muslims. First, I bring up Christmas in conversation. I will say something like, “I am really excited about our Christmas plans for this year!” Or “Christmas is my favorite time of the year.” Really, anytime you see a Christmas tree, or a wreath, or anything Christmas related, it is easy to bring up Christmas.
Second, I ask my Muslim friend if they know the Christmas story. Sometimes they know the story, and sometimes they do not. If they know the story, use it as a chance to share your testimony of how God changed your life through Jesus. If they do not know the Christmas story, then you have a great opportunity to tell it to them!
Third, ask your Muslim friend if you can share the Christmas story with them. I like to share the story from the book of Matthew 1:18-25. If I have a New Testament, I read the Christmas story with them. If not, I simply tell the story to them. I prefer to open up the Bible with them since this is usually the first time my Muslim friend has ever encountered the Bible.
Fourth, ask your friend what this story means about Jesus. Very often, after hearing this story, my Muslim friends will tell me, “That is the same story we have in the Qur’an!” While there are some small differences between the story in the Qur’an and the Bible, there are many similarities. If you want to prepare, simply read Qur’an 3:45-55 and 19:16-28.
Fifth, point out what the Christmas story shows us about Jesus. There are at least three unique things about Jesus that this story emphasizes.
- Jesus’ birth was prophesied hundreds of years in advance.
- Jesus was the only person to be born of a virgin.
- Jesus’ birth was announced by angels.
From this point, I begin sharing about the other aspects of Jesus’ life that were miraculous and unique. I share about how He raised the dead and healed the sick. I talk about His other miracles, like walking on water or feeding the five thousand. I continue following this discussion of Jesus’ unique works until we arrive at his death, burial, and resurrection.
Perhaps your Muslim friend will not agree with you on every point when you first share. A significant next step is to give them a copy of the New Testament and encourage them to read and learn for themselves. Some hearts will open to the Word of God, and others will not. However, this is a straightforward way to use the Christmas story to begin gospel conversations with your Muslim friends or neighbors.
 The primary reason for this confusion is a verse from the Qur’an that says, “And behold! Allah will say: ‘O Jesus the son of Mary! Did you say unto men, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’” (Qur’an 5:116).