As another Christmas is upon us, 2016 has been a difficult year for those who celebrate Christ’s birth this time each year. Around the globe, the level of Christian persecution is expanding dramatically. Both Communists and radical jihadists are hell-bent on stamping out the world’s most populous religion, it seems.
In places like North Korea, Christians are being horribly tortured and murdered for their failure to worship the false gods of the state. In other words, Communist leaders are continuing to do what they have always done – attempting to destroy any rivalry to their desired ultimate power and control over their masses.
Fidel Castro’s recent demise brings to mind some of the horrors his regime leveled against any persons of the Christian faith who dared show any allegiance to the Prince of Peace greater than that of “El Jefe.” In fact, his executions went so awry that he ordered his political and religious prisoners gagged before being shot so that they couldn’t utter Christian statements to their executioners – statements like that of Christ, forgiving His own executioners.
In the Middle East, it has been “Hell on earth” for many Christians in places like Syria and Iraq. Both jihadists like ISIS and other radical Islamic regimes in Muslim countries seem to be going out of their way to completely exterminate anyone who espouses an older faith than that of Mohammad.
We’ve seen and heard too many horror stories of beheadings, crucifixions, rapes, slavery kidnappings, and other unimaginable atrocities – all done in the name of fidelity to Islam.
Here in America, we don’t have this level of Christian persecution yet. But, just as Christmas approaches, so the atheist radicals fan out over the land to sniff out any possible “public” declarations of the faith that must be harassed, sued, and destroyed.
We’ve heard the stories of schools now forbidden to perform the A Charlie Brown Christmas simply because of Linus’ “Biblical” speech. We’ve even heard of these secular Grinches stepping on a poor elementary school production of the Dickens’ classic – A Christmas Carol – because, horror of horrors, Tiny Tim utters the words, “God bless us, everyone.”
And, let’s face it; the Christian Church in America is still seeking to heal its wounds over the division the candidacy of Donald Trump wedged into the heart of the Bible belt.
Yet, through all of this negative, we still see Christmas, and the celebration of Jesus’ birth, coming on loudly and clearly across the planet. That’s because He is real. His birth was real. And, His message of hope for humanity is real.
People are singing the carols. Homes, churches, and businesses are all decked out in holiday splendor. A precious little Irish girl has taken over the internet with her song of simple faith.
Yep, Christmas is coming this year once again just as it has been celebrated for two millennia now. No amount of evil, hatred, bigotry, and tyranny can stomp it out. It appears Gamaliel was prophetic during the young Christian Church’s second trial in Acts 5:38-39:
38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” (NASB)
Those of us who follow Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord rejoice during this holiday that bears His Name. This is not because we feel the need to defend Him. Reality needs no defense. But, we rejoice because we have the opportunity, perhaps more this time of year than the rest, to share the truth and love that is found in Jesus.
The fact is that American Christians are the most generous group on the planet when it comes to helping the poor and needy. Just look at Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child’s efforts to send “shoeboxes” filled with simple gifts to literally millions of children across the globe once again this year.
The Salvation Army will donate clothing and food to untold numbers of poor and homeless all across the nation; all of it done in Jesus’ Name.
Thousands of churches throughout the land will provide essentials for the needy in their own communities. Many will make Christmas bright for needy children who would have no presents under the tree this year were it not for the willingness of those who celebrate the greatest Gift of all to share with those they don’t even know.
I say, “Let the atheists howl.” “Let ISIS create church ‘hit lists.’” Their fascism and thuggery will fail in the end. Herod the Great thought he could destroy the Messiah, too.
Sorry. Didn’t happen.
No amount of human hatred and hellish evil can destroy God’s love for humanity. He proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt by taking on human flesh and becoming our “Kinsman Redeemer.”
The great prophet Isaiah spoke these words some 700 years before they came to pass:
The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2 NASB)
We celebrate Christmas because the Light has come – the Light that John speaks about as he describes Jesus:
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (John 1:9-12 NASB)
So, to all who keep this season of celebration, I say, “Rejoice!” “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”
And, for those who haven’t figured the holiday out yet, I say, “Wise men still seek Him.” As Jesus, Himself, once offered:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NASB)