I was at an event at a local church recently when dancing broke out.
For those who are shocked at the concept of dancing in a church, I should point out it wasn’t during a worship service. It was at an afternoon café, a drop-in for members of the local refugee community. It is held in a downstairs coffee bar, not in the church sanctuary. The spirit was festive with the approach of Christmas, and after the Christmas story had been told, and a meal eaten, with some Arabic-language music playing in the background, several of the men got up to dance. The women just watched (and took out their phones to record the event in photo and video).
At the forefront were two young men who started the dance, close friends, two men who by all logic should never have been dancing together, two men who should consider each other enemies. They danced together with joy. One from Iran, the other from Iraq.
It is not that many years ago that the two countries fought a bloody war that lasted most of the 1980s. The two young men who were dancing are too young to remember that first-hand, but their fathers probably fought each other. The distrust and hatred of that time would have been passed along at the dinner table. Wikipedia tells me 500,000 soldiers died, with an unknown number of civilian casualties. I remember taking a university course on war, and the number four million sticks in my mind. The two countries follow different strains of Islam. They may no longer be at war, but memories in the Middle East are long. Yet two young men were dancing with joy.
Most of those at the event were Muslims, refugees and immigrants. They face real struggles as they attempt to fit in to German society. So much feels foreign to them. Sometimes what seems impossible can be seen right in front of them. Like two young men, an Iraqi and an Iranian, dancing together with delight. How is this possible?
The young men know about the enmities between their peoples. But they have discovered something more, a love that conquers the hate and distrust. Both have realized the truth of Jesus Christ and have left Islam behind in the light of His love. They have been given joy, and so they can dance together.
This is the message of Christmas, proclaimed by angels and made flesh in Jesus. Peace on earth and good will to all. Traditional enemies becoming not just friends but brothers. A joy so overflowing that it must be expressed in dance.
There is no snow in southern Germany, it doesn’t feel like winter yet. With forecast temperatures in the double digits for most of the next week, I don’t expect to see snow anytime soon.
But when I watch two young men, and Iranian and an Iraqi, dancing with joy, it sure does feel like Christmas.