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Let’s Remember Those Persecuted for Christ’s Sake

In the book “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” C.S. Lewis takes us to the land of Narnia. When it is living under the authority of the White Witch, it is “always winter, never Christmas.”
There are people living today who are living in a kind of winter because Christmas never comes to them.

The human rights group Open Doors has reported that Christmas is a day of terror for Christians in the Middle East, particularly Iraq.

Christians around the world openly celebrated this holy day, but believers in Iraq marked the birth of Christ either privately or not at all.

They were afraid to decorate, put up a tree or acknowledge the meaning of this special day.

It’s not that way here in America, but we, too, are in desperate need of good news, and the birth of a child is good news.

As Christians across the world remembered the birth of Christ, I was reminded of the births of my three children.

I was fortunate to have been there on each blessed event and celebrated the moment with pictures and video. One of my daughter’s will turn 11 in a few days, and I am sure photos and Facebook posts will be involved.

Devoid of cameras and social media to help celebrate and remember the occasion, Mary “treasured up” all these things in her heart (Luke 2:19).

Years later when Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus for three days when he was a 12-year-old, they found him in the temple. He mildly chided them for not knowing where he was, and once again Mary “treasured” these things in her heart (Luke 2:41-51).

“Treasuring up” is still a good idea. We need to be able to draw upon the memories of the Christmas season and the special meaning it holds for those of us who hold on to the truths of the manger, shepherds, angels and the first family.

It’s important to be able to recall this story in order to share it with others around us throughout the year.

Christmas is about sharing good news, rejoicing in the truth of Emmanuel, God with us, and how this transforms us out of darkness of sin into the light of Christ.

In the U.S., each one of us has the freedom to share the Christmas story. No one prevents us from doing this.

However, we are not free to choose the consequences after we share the gospel or our beliefs. Others have the same freedom, too.

Some people might not like what we have to say. We might be laughed at or make people angry. We might be disappointed or find out we have disappointed someone else. Freedom goes both ways.

However, we need to realize that there are Christians in some parts of the world who are in danger for being associated with Christ. Many of them live in places where “it is always winter, but never Christmas.”

Last week, across the U.S. many of us gathered with family and friends for our Christmas Eve services that were the highlight of the Advent season.

We gathered openly and without fear around the Lord’s Supper table to be reminded about why Jesus came and how his life, death and resurrection make all the difference in our lives.

I hope that in the year ahead we will remember the joyous celebration of Christmas while also bringing to mind brothers and sisters in Christ in places around the world where persecution is a real danger and where faith in Christ is costly.

They can only imagine what it is like to worship in freedom and without fear.

Christians in this country typically don’t appreciate the religious freedom we enjoy. May we be inspired by the courage and sacrifice of fellow believers who gather to worship and witness even though they do not have the same freedoms.

Danny Chisholm is senior pastor of University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo. A version of this article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @ChisholmDanny.