How would you like to spend Christmas with people who might eat you for dinner? Really!

Such was the experience of Don and Carol Richardson, Baptist missionaries to the Sawi islanders of Irian Jaya (formerly a part of New Guinea). These natives had a reputation for murdering visitors. Even ferocious neighboring tribesmen feared to set foot on their riverbank. You might say that the Sawi lacked the spiritual gift of hospitality. Yet the Richardsons considered them lovable people—loved by God and therefore to be loved by them, whatever the risk.

Don and Carol courageously embarked on their mission. They managed to befriend the Sawi, who even invited them to live among them. The challenge was reaching them for Jesus. The Richardsons learned the native language and began teaching the gospel, but nothing the Sawi heard moved them—until they heard about Judas the betrayer. As recounted in the book Peace Child, among the highest values of Sawi society was betrayal. Their favorite saying was “fatten with friendship for the slaughter” (quite a mission statement!). The Sawi cunningly deceived visitors into imagining they were welcome, while secretly plotting their murder. Then came a fellowship dinner in which they feasted on their victim.

Learning this, the Richardsons had cause to wonder about their own safety as honored guests of the Sawi. They were willing to sacrifice their lives, but what troubled them was how the gospel could ever appeal to such a culture.

Things worsened when war began with a neighboring tribe. Day after day the battle raged outside the Richardson’s little hut. Then suddenly the fighting stopped. A young Sawi warrior ran between the warring armies carrying a bundle. The fighting paused as he ceremonially presented the bundle to the opposing tribe. Immediately hostilities ended.

What was that bundle? His son. In that society, if someone offered his son to the enemy and that gift was accepted, peace would reign between the tribes. War was no more as long as that child lived.

And so the war was over—not through defeat of the enemy but through the gift of a peace child. Immediately the Richardsons seized their opportunity to present the gospel of God’s Peace Child.

Long ago in Bethlehem God gave His only Son as our Prince of Peace, so that anyone who believed and received His gift would not perish but have everlasting life. “For Christ himself has made peace … by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us” (Eph. 2:14, NLT). When Jesus hung on the cross, He not only reconciled us to God but to each other. His outstretched arms welcome us all into sharing God’s saving love.

God’s Peace Child came to us free but not cheap: “The heart of the human father yearns over his son. He looks into the face of his little child, and trembles at the thought of life’s peril. He longs to shield his dear one from Satan’s power, to hold him back from temptation and conflict. To meet a bitterer conflict and a more fearful risk, God gave His only-begotten Son, that the path of life might be made sure for our little ones. ‘Herein is love.’ Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth!  (Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, 49).

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). Nothing we do can deserve or repay Him. The psalmist asked: “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-13).

We can’t repay God. All we can do is receive God’s grace and share it—not just with words but with deeds.

So have a wonderful holiday of sharing and receiving.