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 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 is reporting that Christmas is a day of terror for Christians in the Middle East, particularly Iraq. Christians around the world celebrate this holy day, but believers in Iraq mark the birth of Christ either privately or not at all. They are 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. The birth of a child is good news. On this occasion when the world remembers the birth of Christ, I am also 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. Cally’s 16th birthday was a few days ago, and Lucy will have her 11th in a few days from now also, and I am sure photos and Facebook will be involved.
Mary didn’t have access to that kind of social media, but she did have angels and shepherds. And upon seeing the shepherds come and go, she “treasured up” all these things in her heart. When Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus for 3 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.
“Treasuring up” is still a good idea. We need to be able to draw upon the memories of the 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 of Christmas. It’s important to be able to recall this Story in order to share it with others around us. Christmas is about sharing good news. We are all sinners in need of a savior. We can rejoice in the truth of Emmanuel, God with us, and how this transforms us out of darkness of sin into the light of Christ.
America is our home, and each one of us has the freedom to share the Christmas story and our own opinions. 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. America is a melting pot of ideas and ideals, of people who are similar to us and also radically different. We need to move beyond the skirmishes of whether or not the cashier says “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” when we leave the department shore, and 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.”
Tonight our church family and friends will gather for our Christmas Eve Communion and Candlelight service. it will be the highlight of the Advent season and year. We will gather around the Lord’s Supper table to be reminded about why Jesus came in the first place and how his life, death, and resurrection makes all the difference in our lives. When Jesus explained the purpose for his life, he did so by sharing a meal with them. As UHBC obeys Christ’s command to “do this in remembrance of me”, I will bring 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 what we have in terms of religious freedom. May we be inspired by the courage and sacrifice of fellow believers. Let us also understand that people live in different kinds of winter, but that the hope of Christmas is real and the “Word became flesh, and lived among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14).
Christmas is here!