A story about John the Baptist
(from an Advent sermon in a mosque)

by Eunice Ordman  

      As a child I wanted a sister more than anything.  When my mother threw my worn and tattered,  Sister doll in the trash, I cried all afternoon.  It wasn't until my brother married Violet that I had a real sister even though she lived across the continent in California.  Then one day she said,
        "I think that all Muslims are potential terrorists."
        I was shocked.  If my loving understanding sister-in-law thought that all Muslims were terrorists, that must be a very common belief.  How awful!  Suppose my children were thought of a potential terrorists.  Poor things.  How they would suffer.  No one should suffer like that through no fault of their own.     
        "Chip, we've got to do something about that."
        "Someone considered a potential terrorist is not going to come to us.  We must go to them." 
        When we visited the local mosque about a mile from our house in Memphis, TN, we were told that their services were at
1:30 PM on Fridays.  Next Friday we appeared at the mosque only to be told that I must go to the back while Chip went to the front.  Reluctantly I covered my head with a triangular head scarf and went to the back.  The other women told me to remove my shoes and put them here on these shelves.  Then we went through the double glass doors into the part of the sanctuary reserved for women.  A curtain separated us from the men.  We couldn't see the speaker nor the men.  The women sat on the carpeted floor.  As a non Muslim I sat in a chair.  Still the women tried to rearrange my hair so that none of it showed.
        At some point the women all lined up shoulder to shoulder facing the curtain.  Three times on some signal they all knelt down and put their heads to the floor in unison while muttering a prayer to Allah.  This was followed by a sermon in Arabic.
        After several such services like that I found copies of the Koran in English with an index in the back.  Then I could look up words like Jesus and Mary and find texts about them.  Reading the Koran, even in English, is difficult because the text is arranged, not in chronological order, but in order of the length of the passage.   Muslims are supposed to learn Arabic so they can read the Koran in its native language. 
        One Friday just before Christmas the preacher talked about Yah Yah Ibn Zachar, the father of John the Baptist.  He told the congregation that Zacharias was too old to have a child, but he prayed to Allah to make an exception so that he could have a son who would preach about the one God (Allah).  God made an exception and John was born and grew up to be a dedicated preacher of the one God.  John was such a wonderful preacher that it was John who baptized Jesus, not the other way around.  Now tell your children that the story of John and his message is much more important than all Santa Clauses you see.