Let’s be honest. Street preaching in the 21st century, I wasn’t convinced. Until we started doing Christmas Carols in Amsterdam’s most famous Red Light District named ‘De Wallen’…
The idea is simple. “Where would Jesus go to celebrate Christmas?” That thought was the start of the idea for our friend Miranda Tollenaar to bring together some incredible singers from her network and as YWAM Amsterdam we would mobilise a small army of volunteers to move into the Red Light District to celebrate Christmas.
We started off at Amsterdam Central Train Station to move towards the Dam Square and from there into the different alleys and narrow bridges of the Red Light District. We spent about 10 minutes at every different spot, but every time we had to move on I noticed we were leaving people behind with looks on their faces that seemed to be thinking, ‘what on earth just happened?’ When we arrived at our final spot I couldn’t contain myself…
A little awkward and really quite insecure I quickly asked someone to translate so that I woud have more time to think in between my sentences. The best part about having a translator for someone like myself. I would tell them what we were doing and especially why we were doing that. And to my own surprise, people would stand and listen to what we had to say.
Here and there some smiles appeared on people’s faces. Was it surprise, were they being cynical, was it hope? Whatever it was, their smiles encouraged me to keep going and before I knew it I had delivered the shortest Christmas message ever in one of the least likely places. It was received with clapping and shouting and a loud ‘Merry Christmas’ from the smiling faces in front of me.
This year it was the fourth time that we were doing ‘Christmas Carols’ in the Red Light District. Filled with the hope from previous years we were starting our ‘power preaches’ at Amsterdam Central Station. The acoustics of the main hall were very helpful in addressing a couple hundred people at a time. Once outside the choir would easily bring that amount of people together as well, but I realised that from where I was standing it was impossible to address them all at once. Right at that moment I noticed a big trash can that had the 3 crosses of Amsterdam’s coat of arms on it, and it reminded me of the accompanying three words, “valiant, steadfast, compassionate.” For a split second I was wondering if this was a good idea with an ankle that was steal recovering from a fracture a few weeks ago, but I brushed that question aside by wondering: ‘what is more important?’
These kinds of trash cans tend to be pretty high, but really solid and from there I could see that the are around the Oude Kerk (oldest church of Amsterdam) had filled up pretty well and even along the outer parts of the square people had gathered to listen. Encouraged by the choir and our little army of volunteers I shouted on top of my lungs: ‘we’re here to put CHRIST back into Christ-mas!’ and added what that means to us. Jesus came to establish a relationship between us and the living God. However far away from God we may feel we are and however impossible it seems to return to him. Christmas is the news that He actually came to us.
And that’s why Christmas isn’t just limited to December: Merry Christmas!