What about the persecuted church and Christmas? As we enter into the Christmas season, I find it very fitting to remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
For instance, next February in China, the new “Regulations for Religious Affairs” will come into force. While the government states that all Chinese citizens have the right to freedom of religious belief, a little digging shows the restrictions. The times and locations for religious celebrations are restricted by the government. One might plan a Christian service only to find the door sealed without any prior warning. At times, police officers might be standing outside of the door discouraging members from attending. All churches are required to register with one of five state-sanctioned patriotic religious associations. All religious celebrations are monitored and may be restricted. Numerous Chinese Christian churches have had their services disrupted and their pastors arrested for disobedience to the government.
Extremists surrounded his car and he was pulled out and beaten…
Listen to an individual story. Pastor John Larka pastors a Christian church in the Odisha State of India. Recently, while taking his 18-month-old baby to the hospital for emergency treatment, a mob of Hindu extremists surrounded his car and he was pulled out and beaten. He was stripped naked, dragged to a Durga idol, and forced to kneel as they continued to beat him. As they were pouring gasoline on him to burn him as a sacrifice to the idol, the police stepped in and rescued him.
You might wonder why Christmas is the occasion that frequently causes me to think about the persecuted church. Listen to the words of Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined.”
Or, listen to the words of John 1:8, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. Last of all, listen to the words of John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…”.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus is LIGHT coming into a very dark world. His coming sparked a great spiritual war, in which the prince of darkness rages with hatred of the one who comes to set his people free. Christmas inspired Herod the Great to massacre the boys of Bethlehem.
Christmas is God’s declaration of warfare against the darkness of sin and death.
I am reminded every Christmas that the cost of bringing light into the world would eventually result in the death of the Son of God. And so, for me, Christmas is not about chestnuts roasting over an open fire. Don’t get me wrong, I think the lights, the trees, the food, and the family and friends are wonderful traditions. But, they are not the message of Christmas. Christmas is God’s declaration of warfare against the darkness of sin and death. It is God’s plan to break down the stronghold of Satan’s city of darkness and set his captives free.
And, that is why I remember the persecuted church this time of year. I am reminded that the Messiah has built his church in great centers of darkness. I am thankful that, even where it is not appreciated, the light has begun to shine. But, I do also pray for those who suffer, for some men love darkness rather than light.
This Christmas, let’s remember the persecuted church.