John 15:18-19 - (Jesus said) "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
This is the last of our Christmas devotions until next year. I promise.
Indeed, I thought I was done until I came across an article about Christmas in Egypt, which was celebrated on January 7th. Now you and I both know that when our churches remember the Savior's birth, it takes a lot of preparation. There's the Advent wreath and special sermons and services; the church decorations and parament changes; the children's Christmas worship service presentations. The list goes on.
Still, as extensive as our preparations were this year, they pale in comparison to those which were undertaken by our brothers and sisters in the land of the pharaohs. Amazingly, those plans were made by the government as well as the congregations.
Yes, I said the government was involved.
The official announcement said, "Holidays and vacations are canceled for security personnel and officers at all security directorates across the country." In effect, that statement meant that 230,000 security personnel had been called up to protect that country's 2,626 churches.
That's 230,000 security people.
Their most obvious job was to protect the congregations, but security also increased their proactive round up of terrorists. They tightened security measures at the borders and showed a more obvious presence at tourism sites.
And the churches? They also made their Christmas preparations.
Unlike most of our congregations, Christmas preparations for an Egyptian congregation included adding more closed-circuit television cameras and installing metal detector systems to screen everyone who was coming to worship.
It is an amazing thing that so many people in every generation feel it their duty to violently persecute the followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. When the Savior was born, His ruler tried to have Him murdered; His hometown friends tried to kill Him, and His own church orchestrated His murder.
In the centuries since the Savior's death and resurrection, things have not improved. The Romans did their bit, as did the great, ancient nations of Asia. And today? This past November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Christianity is "the most persecuted religion in the world." In the Middle East, one-half to two-thirds of Christians have been murdered or fled their countries.
Those are the facts. This is why I would suggest that each of us, when we begin our Christmas preparations next year, spend a bit of time remembering those whose festival is not tinsel and toys, presents and packages. Let us ask the Lord to preserve the Savior's followers who are hated and persecuted because our Lord of life is hated.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the world still hates the Savior and those who follow Him. Grant that the Holy Spirit may preserve all those who have been called to faith in the Prince of Peace. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Amanda Casanova for Religion Today on December 20, 2018. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written, click here.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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