The legendary gods and goddesses take center stage in the stories that illuminate the festival of Diwali. But, it’s the supporting cast of traditions and customs that fill the senses with the sights, sounds and tastes that define this yearly extravaganza. For workers in South Asia, these traditions provide opportunities to share truth in the context of community celebration. A Christar worker shares how she might build bridges this season.
“I want a sari!” declared Seema,* my kitchen helper. With Diwali coming, it is customary to provide a gift to employees, neighbors and household helpers. Throughout South Asia, the festival spirit permeates the air, much like the thick smoke from brush fires that the watchmen light against the ever-deepening cold at night. Collective energy electrifies the atmosphere like the endless strings of lights that drape houses and office buildings. Rich and poor alike are preparing to welcome wealth and prosperity for the year to come.
My kitchen helper is no exception. She has her wish list prepared and isn’t shy to share it. A silk sari (the traditional festive dress), or a warm wool shawl. Or both. And toys for her son. And sweets. And money. There should be some money.
Inwardly, I groan. As much as I want to provide her with a gift that will fulfill her need, I desire more for her. My hope for her goes far beyond the joy of a sari, a shawl, toys or any amount of money. I desperately want her to find love, identity, fulfillment and safety in Jesus who has conquered death and darkness forever. But where to begin … ?
Come into the Light!
Diwali is known as the “festival of lights” with good reason. In Hinduism, light signifies goodness. Throughout the festival, oil lamps will be burned continuously to ward off darkness and evil. From the grand office buildings to the front stoops of modest one-room houses, lamps will twinkle into the night. Just as a wealth of lamps illuminates the streets, the light of Christ lights our path.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12
Clay pots full of glory!
The thousands of lamps that sit in rows along gates and ledges begin as mud in a field. Potters mold them, fire them in furnaces, haul them into the city, pile them in heaps along the side of the road and sell them for pennies. As simple pots they are unimpressive, but filled with oil and burning brightly against the darkness, they illuminate with glorious beauty. In the same way, the light of Christ shines from within those who trust in Him.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
Stories in living color!
Intricate and colorful designs grace the doorways of homes waiting for a visit from the goddess of wealth, along with the friends and family that will gather the next day. Rangoli is a traditional art that pours colored powders in lines and shapes to create lavish patterns. Using symbolism, stories from the Scriptures can also be retold through design and color. Without the interpretation, these designs can’t convey truth, but these visual parables celebrate our Savior who was incarnated to draw a people to Himself and His marvelous light.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
The perfect gift!
Diwali is practically synonymous with shopping and gift-giving. Gifts convey respect and good wishes toward the recipient, but in the tradition of Diwali they go further to represent the prayers of the giver for the prosperity of the one who receives. During this season those who’ve believed in Jesus pray that many others will embrace eternal life in their Savior.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Will you pray that in this season, grace and truth would illuminate lives and transform communities of least-reached people throughout the world? Ask that workers in the Hindu world will have opportunities and boldness to tell the stories of Jesus, the Light of the World!
**Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How can I get involved?
- Ask for open doors—literally and figuratively. As workers visit neighbors this week, pray that they would meet those who are seeking eternal answers to life’s questions.
- Ask that as people hear truth, they would desire to know more. Pray for opportunities for continued study and follow-up in the weeks and months to come.
- Ask that many who have never heard the gospel will come to know the Light of the World personally.
Check out our Hinduism booklet to learn about Hindu beliefs and practices.
Get practical tips for sharing Jesus with a Hindu friend.
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