As Christians in the West go to church and worship during this Christmas season, it is well to reflect on how these two simple acts-going to church to worship-can be life-threatening for Christians in the Islamic world, especially on Christmas. The following excerpt from my book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (pgs. 42-45), provides a glimpse at the horrors and humiliations Christians throughout the Muslim world are exposed to whenever they try to meet and worship in church on Christmas and other Christian holidays. One can only hope-perhaps in vain-that this coming Christmas does not add new victims to the list. ---- Christians in the Islamic world today are suffering attacks motivated by the very same diabolical animus as a thousand years ago under Hakim [Egyptian caliph who ordered the destruction of reportedly 30,000 churches in the 10th –11th century]. Proof of this is that some of the most terrible assaults occur precisely on Christian holidays-Christmas, Easter, and New Year's Eve (which is a major church day in the Middle East). And no wonder, considering that some Muslim clerics insist that "saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication . . . or killing someone."
After some fourteen centuries of church attacks and other persecution-punctuated by a brief Christian Golden Age-Egypt's Copts began the new year in 2011 once again under assault, at one of their largest churches: during midnight Mass in the early hours of January 1, 2011, the Two Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria, crowded with hundreds of Christian worshippers, was bombed, leaving at least twenty-three dead and approximately a hundred injured. According to eyewitnesses, "body parts were strewn all over the street outside the church. The body parts were covered with newspapers until they were brought inside the church after some Muslims started stepping on them and chanting Jihadi chants," including "Allahu Akbar!" Witnesses further attest that "security forces withdrew one hour before the church blast." And a year earlier, Muslims shot and killed six Christians as they were leaving church after celebrating the Coptic Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Nag Hammadi.
December 25, 2011, was called Nigeria's "blackest Christmas ever." In a number of coordinated jihadi operations, Reuters reported, Islamic terrorists bombed several churches during Christmas liturgies, killing at least thirty-eight people, "the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion." Charred bodies and dismembered limbs lay scattered around the destroyed church. This attack was simply a reenactment of Christmas Eve one year earlier, in 2010, when several other churches were set ablaze and Christians were attacked, also leaving nearly thirty-eight dead. There was no reprieve for Nigeria's Christians when the next religious holiday came; some fifty Christians were killed "when explosives concealed in two cars went off near the Assemblies of God's Church during Easter Sunday services" in April 2012 in a predominantly Muslim region. According to the pastor, "We were in the Holy Communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors." December 25, 2012, saw a repeat of the last few Christmases: in two separate attacks, Islamic gunmen shot and killed twelve Christian worshippers who had gathered for Christmas Eve church services, including one church's pastor. more >>
In exhorting Christians as to how they should behave toward one another, the Apostle Paul pointed to the example of Christ himself:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
In these few short verses, the Apostle sums up the "good news of great joy" that the angel brought the shepherds when heralding the birth of the savior of the world. God had become man. Christ stepped down from his throne, condescended to become a man, and willingly suffered death on a cross that the world through him might be saved. In this way, God's love was made manifest to mankind (John 3:16). more >>
As the father of two boys with another little one on the way, the holidays seem like more of a blur than usual. Gifts, decorating, traditions, family and friends are remarkably enjoyable but hardly helpful for organizing thoughts. Yet, the smallest things are sometimes just what we need to remind us of the redemptive message of Christmas.
While I was roasting pecans for holiday gifts and wrangling the boys one evening, I had music playing in the background. I paused for a minute when I heard Johnny Cash's hauntingly introspective voice carry the lyrics of Trent Reznor's "Hurt."
I could hear the Man in Black asking himself the question, "What have I become?" The song reminded me of the importance of taking account of who we are, where we have been and where we are going. For so many of us, the challenge is not simply the mad dash through the holidays; it is finding perspective in the fast pace of our entire lives. more >>
Supporters of an imprisoned pastor in China were reportedly beaten by hired thugs on Christmas Eve in the country's Henan Province, the pastor's wife told reporters Tuesday.
Wang Fengrui, wife of imprisoned Pastor Zhang Shaojie, told the Associated Press that over a dozen hired thugs reportedly beat human rights lawyers and churchgoers as they left her home in Henan on Christmas Eve. The woman's husband, Pastor Zhang Shaojie, has been imprisoned by Chinese authorities since mid-November. Zhang is the leader of a government-approved Christian church and was arrested last month under the vague charges of obstructing government justice.
"About 20 or so people had staked out the house overnight with lights and bonfires, and they used violence to prevent some of us from leaving, grabbing their clothes, taking their possessions such as bank cards and beating them," the pastor's lawyer, Xia Jun, said in a recent interview with the Associated Press regarding the Christmas Eve attack. The churchgoers and lawyers had reportedly planned a prayer meeting for the pastor at his wife's home for Monday night, but when they were prevented by authorities, they gathered at the home on Tuesday night instead, which is when they were attacked by the thugs. more >>
When thinking about the exact location of the birth of Jesus Christ, for most Christians in the United States if not Western civilization, a familiar image comes to mind. Surrounded by farm animals, the Christ child is laid within a manger, a stable that was likely made of wood with hay on the ground. Traditional images of said manger, the displays erected outside of churches, on public property or at home, generally involve a simple wooden structure as the setting.
However, in some Christian traditions the setting for the manger is not a wooden building, but rather a rockier less man-made locale.
Churches, like the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, state that Jesus was born in a cave, as they were used by shepherds of the time to shelter animals from hostile weather. more >>
A Connecticut man known for his massive holiday display of Christmas lights on his 82-acre property was found shot dead in his home late last week.
John Chakalos, 87, had become famous for decorating his large estate in Chesterfield, N.H., in 6 million Christmas lights every year for the holidays for the past 50 years. People reportedly travel from an hour away to view the elaborate decorations that include an entire Victorian village, Nativity scene, and a giant Santa. The Chakalos family allows visitors to drive through their estate to view the decorations as long as they donate money or food to the local Joan's Food Pantry.
Chakalos was reportedly found in his other home, located in Windsor, Conn., on Friday by one of his daughters. The man reportedly sustained a gunshot wound to the head, and police responded to a call regarding the man's death at 8:25 a.m Friday. Windsor police have opened a homicide case in response to Chakalos' death, based on how the body was positioned when it was found in the home and the fact that no weapon was recovered. more >>