Today is a magical day. Today, Christians celebrate the birth of God on Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Fully man and fully God, Jesus is later revealed as the second person of the Holy Trinity. While the image of the Infant Jesus is (by design) easy for people to relate, the celebration contains a mystery beyond human experience and intellect. It is a miracle.
Christmas is the first instance of the Good News of the Gospel, but the fallen nature of mankind ensures that Christianity continues to exist in a sinful world. Even the day of Christmas, perhaps the most innocent of all human celebrations, is marred by evil men. As Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace across the Middle East, Muslim murderers chose the holy occasion as an opportunity to shed blood.
Early Sunday, an explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital of Abuja, and an emergency worker reported that 25 people were killed. A second explosion struck near a church in Nigeria's restive central city of Jos, while two other explosions hit the northeast state of Yobe.
Such violence is not exclusive to Nigeria.
In Iraq ... another round of suicide bombings on Thursday killed some 70 people [and]there will be no Midnight Mass. ... Iraq's Christians spend Christmas in "great fear," ... Christians are not displaying Christmas decorations outside their homes.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, the Fides news agency reported that more than 2,500 police will be protecting Christian churches during Christmas. Local sources told the agency that some 430 churches in Pakistan will have "special security measures." ... Christians make up about 3% of the Pakistani population. As reported to Fides by official sources, over the past five years, nearly 5,000 people have been victims of attacks by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan: a quarter of the victims are Christians.
Charles Jacobs at Big Peace [h/t Power Line] summarizes anti-Christian persecution in Egypt.
Gordon College is a Christian school between Salem and Rockport. A few weeks ago I spoke there at a commemoration of Kristallnacht, Germany's night of broken glass, the first mass assault on Europe's Jews and the harbinger of the Shoah. I told the Christian audience how good it was to feel Christian support for Jews in these times, and that even some of the most stubborn of my people were now appreciating Evangelical support for Israel. I also said that we felt this blessed support came from a spirit of Christian altruism. But given the news from the Middle East, concern for others is surely not the only reason Christians need to support Israel.
I asked how many in the audience of 250 knew of Anne Frank. Almost every hand shot up. Then I asked how many had heard of Ayman Labib. I got a mass blank stare. Ayman was a 17-year-old Egyptian Christian who just weeks ago was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates as teachers watched because he refused their demand to remove his cross necklace.
I asked how many knew about the Maspero massacre, which had left at least 24 Copts dead and 270 injured. And whether they knew that since January, there had been more than 70 attacks on Christian churches or institutions in Egypt.
While tonight you commemorate a Jewish pogrom, I told them, Christianity has just suffered its own "Kristallnacht" ... and I have yet to see much of a Christian response.
I invoke Christian suffering and the call for "a Christian response" during this Christmas season because attacks on Christians at this time of year are particularly perverse and the time of year provides a proper context for contemplating a just response.
Christian suffering around the world is curiously unlamented by Christian America. This is partially due to media-induced ignorance. CNN has no intention of interrupting its message of eco-solutions, gay-rights and Democratic talking-points in order to sympathize with Christians. Catholics aren't the folks CNN and their ilk have in mind when they bray about minority rights.
But seeming Christian apathy in the U.S. is also explained by culture and religious sensibilities. Whereas Muslims around the world react to a solitary pastor in Florida burning a Koran with murder and mayhem, Christians are called to respond to violence with forgiveness and by turning the other cheek. Whereas Mohammed issued ultimatums and led armies to war, Jesus preached hope and embraced martyrdom. Christianity retards the natural human impulse for revenge and recommends a response borne of hope.
Of course, that response is often difficult to articulate and may manifest as hesitancy in the search for peaceful, diplomatic channels. Perhaps these occasions of violence are matters of foreign affairs subject to state action. When America refuses to decry such atrocities and threaten repercussions, they seems to go unlamented. But the lamentable fact may be the impotency of the United States to aid in the security of the rights of Christian minorities around the world.
Perhaps a presidential candidate should be asked, "What will you do to protect persecuted Christian minorities abroad?" Surely the matter deserves far greater attention and consideration that it presently receives. A Christian response may be hard to decipher, but it is worth the trouble.
Nevertheless, today insists that Christians retain hope for the future - of this world and for the next. It is nothing less than a miracle that we celebrate today. If the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, the perils of this world must not cause us to lose faith. The Christmas story is one of hardship and suffering, but ultimate triumph. When we reflect upon the hardships and sufferings of this world, we must be mindful of the promise of ultimate triumph.