Struck down, but not destroyed

Christians around the world today face persecution from many sources.  Nevertheless, we always have this hope: we are not forsakenand He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

Iraq has made Christmas Day a national holiday, its government confirmed this morning.

The Iraqi Cabinet approved an amendment to its national holidays law which creates a new official one ‘on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ‘.

Previously, Christmas Day had been designated as a religious break only for the Iraqi Christian community, but the amendment extends the holiday to everyone.

There are thought to be only around 300,000 Christians remaining in the country, the vast majority of whom are Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians.

Before western countries’ invasion of the country in 2003, Iraqi Christians numbered around 1.4 million, but the onslaught of violence forced hundreds of thousands to flee, either to Iraqi Kurdistan or further abroad.

They have also found themselves persecuted on religious grounds by so-called Islamic State in recent years.   Christians living areas under ISIS control were ordered to pay a large tax, convert to Islam, or be killed.

But now their Lord is being recognized officially.  The Iraqi people have suffered tremendously for decades, first under a ruthless dictator, then in an international crossfire between the West and radical Islamists.  But it is just like our God to bring beauty from such ashes.  I was one of thousands who served there, what seems like a lifetime ago, and I pray this is but the start of a great work by the Spirit in that land.

Merry Christmas!  The Christ Child is still in the business of setting captives free.

Tigris River

Note: there’s an observation made by the composition of this photo I took. See if you can find it.  If you do, feel free to share it in the comments.

Saturday Sounds

This is not usually considered a “Christmas” song.  And yet, Christmas has no meaning apart from the message it conveys.  One of our ministers shared last week at church that his daughter’s coworker, upon being wished a “Merry Christmas,” said she couldn’t remember whether Christmas was whether we “celebrate the birth or the killing of our God.”

Yes, it’s a shocking commentary on how ignorant of the basic doctrines of the faith our country has become.  But it’s also a reminder: neither the birth or the killing of Christ has any meaning without the Resurrection.

What a work we have, to tell those around us what all this really means.