Christmastime in the City

By Bernie and Reneé Anderson, serving in Mongolia

Editor’s Note: The following is an adaptation of a Christmas letter from Bernie and Reneé Anderson, Alliance international workers who live and work in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar.  

We have the privilege of living right smack in the middle of the city. Our apartment is close to the busiest road in town, which makes it the busiest street in the entire country. If we open a window, we’re greeted by the sounds of car horns, ambulance sirens, buses, and the annoying repetitive chimes of the trash truck (it sounds just like an ice cream truck, but it is definitely not an ice cream truck).

We don’t even have to open our window to hear the sounds of repairs being done somewhere in our building; our concrete walls reverberate from hammer drills whacking holes in the walls. From within, there is the sound of our dogs barking at all the other noises around us.

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

But for all the noises bombarding us, our Christmas does seem a little quieter than what it should be. We don’t hear the “sounds of Christmas,” other than the Christmas music we play in our own home. Our sidewalks are always busy, but they certainly aren’t dressed in holiday style. With the exception of a few stores decorated for New Year’s, there is no indication this is any different from any other time of year. We certainly can’t count on our surroundings to induce any “feelings of Christmas.” However, within these realities, there is comfort in knowing why we are actually celebrating this holiday.

Recently, Reneé had a conversation with a couple of girls she is discipling. They were asking her questions about Christmas: why and how we celebrate? One girl commented that she thought Christmas was about family. She got this impression from watching American Christmas shows and movies. Reneé took the opportunity to explain that this is not what Christmas is all about at all. Family is important, and we miss our family deeply this time of the year. But all too often, family is what many people use to fill the hole that is left when they remove Christ from their lives, especially at Christmastime.

Redeeming the Season

Our children were surprised recently when we told them that their parents have both (at different times) considered rejecting Christmas celebrations altogether. The celebration of Christmas anywhere can easily become nothing but noise. Even many churches are choosing to forgo celebrating together and have prioritized “family” time over worshipping together as the Body of Christ. Our Mongolian friends, as new as Christmas is to them, were shocked by this.

It is so easy in America (and even in Mongolia) to drown out the silence that is probably the real sound of Christmas. Rather than reject the entire holiday, our family has chosen to redeem the opportunity to quiet our hearts to hear the sounds of God speaking to us through the Christ Child.

A Lesson in Silence

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spent the nine months leading up to the birth of his son in silence. He couldn’t speak (and probably couldn’t hear as well). This was the result of a rather arrogant, unbelieving request for more proof from an angel who had just told him that he and his aged wife would soon be with child. God’s reply was simple. He provided evidence by striking Zechariah mute until all that the angel had foretold would come to pass.

In the silence, Zechariah thought and learned and-in time-understood.

Often, for our family, God will speak through the words of a carol to highlight an important truth on which to meditate throughout the season. This year, it is the following:

What kind of king would leave his throne
In heaven to make this earth his home?
While men seek fame and great renown
In lowliness our King comes down.

The humility of God is absolutely mind blowing. The God of eternity humbled Himself to the point that He could be held in the arms a teenage girl. The calloused hands of a carpenter counted the fingers of God Himself in the form of a newborn. How can the God who spoke a word and flung the stars into place be the same One who “made himself nothing” and was born in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:7)?

After nine months of silence, Zechariah saw the truth. When his mute lips spoke again, he didn’t spend much time talking about his own son (Luke 1:76). Rather, he prophesied about the One who was coming “to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, . . . to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:77-79).

In the silence God spoke, Zechariah believed and saw the promise, and soon the King was born in a manger throne.

You left the sound of angel’s praise
To come for men with unkind ways
And by this baby’s helplessness
The power of nations is laid to rest.

So join us this Christmas and in the coming year in making this King central, not only in our celebrations, but also in our lives by helping others to see Him as the King as well. Join us in listening for His voice, not just in the busyness, but in the quiet. Join us as we seek to turn our hearts back to the One who was born to die.

For His Renown,
Bernie, Reneé, Jonathan, and Cori

Learn More

Check out the work in Mongolia.

Watch the story of Onon, a student from the city where Reneé and Bernie minister, who encountered Christ through the medical outreach of Alliance workers.

What You Can Do

Pray for Bernie and Reneé as they reach out to the people of Mongolia with the love of the Christ Child. Pray that God will draw many Mongolians to Himself during this Christmas season.

Help keep Alliance workers such as Bernie and Reneé on the field. Consider a year-end Christmas gift to Alliance Great Commission Ministries.






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