Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry (?) Christmas

Merry (?) Christmas

WORLD, Nov. 19, 2011

In China on July of this year, a blind human-rights activist and his wife were beaten for four hours.  He and his family have been placed under house arrest for exposing forced abortions and they are being denied medical treatment from illnesses sustained while imprisoned.
VOICE of the MARTYRS, Dec. 2011

Almost twelve years ago in Indonesia, Yubelina Hgato’s face was badly burned as a result of spilling a kerosene lamp while running away from an attack by Muslims against her village.  Although she has received plastic surgery, nevertheless, her face remains permanently disfigured.  Her daughters would come home in tears because people have said their mother was a monster.  Today she “still bears the scars of her ordeal, not only on her face but also in her heart."

In Iran on Nov. 2010, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death after being convicted of apostasy.  The authorities ordered him to repent of being Christian and return to the religion of Islam.  Youcef refuses with a simple, “I cannot.”  He is still in prison waiting for the sentence to be carried out.

VOICE of the MARTYRS, Nov. 2008

In Columbia on Nov. 2008, “Marcella, 12, was just 300 yards away when FARC guerrillas shot both of her parents” because they were teaching others about Christ.  Now Marcella is in hiding with two of her siblings, ages 4 and 5.

As Christmas Draws Near

…we stumble frantically to buy gifts for family, friends, and maybe even strangers.  Some will cuddle by the fireplace sipping warm hot chocolate while opening their presents.  Others will have a grand homemade meal of arroz con pasteles.  Children will wake in the wee hours of the morning, run down to the Christmas tree in the living room, and go happily wild ripping paper, hugging toys they had wished for all their lives.  Mom and Dad click a thousand and one pictures on their cell phones and cameras.

Yet for many, Christmas won’t actually be the “Merry” we in America take for granted.

While in this country we avoid pain and listen to sermons that will encourage us to brave another new day and new year, others joyfully confess Jesus Christ as Lord with the full knowledge that their lives won’t be worth a nickel afterwards.  While we check into a counselor’s office for marriage and financial problems, others are watching either their spouse, parents, or children murdered and their homes demolished and burned down with all their possessions because they courageously refused to deny their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

While we worry about where our next paycheck will come from, others languish on filthy prisons floors mopped with their own blood wondering if they will ever see their spouse or children again.  They are taken away from their loved ones because they deemed their life and concerns of no consequence for the sake of witnessing to others the love of God in Christ.  While in America we worry and weep in our suffering, there are those in hostile countries who rejoice at the privilege of bearing the name of Christ in their scarred bodies or by the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.

This is not to say we in America do not experience real problems and heartache but how much of it is because of bad luck, unforeseen tragedy, or wrong decisions?  How many of us have suffered for Christ?  How many of us in America are faced with such violent persecution?

In America, we have those with whom we can share our faith and Christmas holiday.  The most we may get from non-believers when we share Christ is a silent nod, an indifferent smile, or a look of pity.  Maybe we shared with someone who had a bad day and, in irritation, they closed the door on our face or just walked away whispering a curse on us.  In Iran, they get the death sentence.  In India, they get beat.  In China, they are arrested and never to be seen or heard from again.

In this country, believers and unbelievers mingle together telling jokes, playing games, enjoying each other’s company.  We even sing "Joy to the World" together!  In hostile countries, if your neighbor and friends find out you’re a Christian, at best, they call the authorities on you or, at worst, they bring a mob to your home, destroy it, and kill you and your family.

Jesus in the manger by Ella Claire Ortiz
Jesus was born for the express purpose of suffering and dying for our sins.  Born a man into this fallen world, he consented to a life of suffering, of pain, and of death.  Believers in other countries have willfully and joyfully consented to the same.

This Christmas, if we are in suffering and pain, let us not forget those who suffer and are in pain for the sake of the Gospel.  With empathy, let us join our sufferings together with theirs' in prayer for the persecuted.  Let us not pray, "God, help me," but let us pray, "God, help us."

If our lives are at present free from worry and concerns, let us joyfully enter in the suffering of the persecuted by praying for them knowing that God has absorbed all our suffering on the Cross.

In whatever state we find ourselves, let us give sacrificially to help the Persecuted Church in her witness for Christ.

Here is a list of Christian organizations that minister to the Persecuted Church:

This Christmas let the groaning of the prisoner come before you and make Christ your gift to them through prayer and giving (Psalm 79:11).

May we then truly share with our brothers and sisters all over the world a...

Merry Christmas!