Normally, the Christian Unions witness something unusual and exciting in December – they see hundreds of unbelieving students eagerly walk into churches, read passages from the Bible, and persistently ask about the next CU event. Why? Because it's Christmas. The one time of the year when brushing up against Christianity isn’t abnormal or awkward, it’s traditional, it’s festive, it’s expected.
This has always been a fantastic opportunity for the CUs – a small annual window where barriers naturally flatten, and the gospel can go out. But what about this year, when Covid-19 created new barriers; closing church doors, cathedrals, and campus chapels? Did they have the same chances and the same passion to make Jesus known?
Despite the restrictions, a number of CUs found renewed motivation to share the gospel – perhaps more aware than ever of the hope the Christmas story has for friends, who had experienced such dark times. Excitingly, many put together a carol service (complete with readings, musical performances and a gospel talk) and then streamed it online for students to watch from the comfort of their living rooms.
Anglia Ruskin CU, for example, ran their first carol service in recent memory. Wonderfully, 52 people signed up to watch – the vast majority of whom had never contacted the CU before! They were particularly thrilled to reconnect with some unbelievers who had come to their evangelistic quiz in November, and even chatted to one of them about Jesus for over an hour and a half after the event ended.
To encourage members to watch these online carol services together with flat mates and friends, lots of CUs also delivered Christmas care packages across campus for a fun and festive night-in. These included decorations, snacks, as well as an invite to the event and a copy of a Gospel.
As a result, many CU members watched a carol service with their entire household. One Cambridge Inter-Collegiate CU member tuned in with her flat and, during the talk, a friend hushed the rest of the group saying 'Shhh, I need to hear this. I feel like he's speaking directly to me!' Another member attended with a couple of people from his house and the talk, which centred on 'a call to come home', sparked far deeper conversations about identity and hope than they had ever had before.
Like most years, the CUs used these carol services and Christmas events not just to proclaim the gospel, but to give students the chance to explore it further. Durham CU were delighted that two students tuned into their follow-up Zoom after their carol service and began reading the Bible with CU members. One Portsmouth student was so struck by the CU carol service, that he began visiting a church over the Christmas break and got in touch with Friends International to find out more about Jesus.
We praise God for all He did last Christmas, and pray now that those who heard the gospel through the CUs will continue to grow in curiosity about Jesus, and find true hope in Him.
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