We are approaching Christmas, the season that is linked to joy, singing and presenting gifts. Individuals and families plan and prepare ahead to provide something joyful for someone special. As sons and daughters of the Lord of Lords we ought to offer the most special gifts, talents and offerings to our precious Savior Christ. How can we celebrate Christmas amid the suffering?

My Experience

As an Egyptian follower of Christ, I have witnessed several Christmas days when the church in Egypt was suffering under persecution. I have personally struggled to enter this precious season with full joy.

A few years back, bomb blasts in two Coptic Orthodox churches in Alexandria made the whole Christian community welcome the New Year and Christmas with tears and sorrow.  (The Eastern church in Egypt celebrates Christmas on the 7th of January).

The Logic for Celebration

How can someone celebrate Christmas in such circumstances? In such cases, plain and simple logic would render any rejoicing or celebration impossible. Thankfully Christ’s birth in his followers’ hearts enables them to rejoice. Not only at Christmas time each year but at all times despite what is taking place on the ground.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” 1 Peter 1:8

Unconditional Joy

Thankfully, this joy is not conditional. Otherwise, we would be saddened by what is taking place around us most of the time.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” Romans 8:22, but Paul reminds us that we shall not be saddened like those who have no hope. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1st Thessalonian 4:13

As our hope that brings joy is fixed in Christ, the Author of Hebrews reminds us of this fact “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,” Hebrew 6:19

Our hearts are heavy but we are not hopeless

This year with the Christmas sounds approaching, the sounds of bombing and killing destroying lives are louder than any other sound, we can’t but mourn for every soul that dies, whether infant, child, adolescent or adult those who are being killed for no guilt, including Christians in churches, as the church in the Middle East continues to confess Christ as Lord and Master under the fire of suffering.

We have no words to say, as our hearts are heavy, and our tongues can’t utter all sadness by the killing of our brothers and sisters. We can only continue to lift up our eyes and fix them on Christ alone “the Author and perfecter of our faith” Heb 12:2.

How then do we celebrate Jesus?

The wise men presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh

Matthew 2: 11- On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In this passage, the Wisemen first bowed before the Lord of all, although an infant in the body but most glorious in his value and position. No one who would really know him can resist offering him praises or bowing down and worshipping him.

Gold for He is the king of kings. So, we shall offer him our lives to be the king and master over it all.

Frankincense for He is the high priest. We shall offer him worship, prayers and songs of praise to glorify him and give thanks at all times in all circumstances.

Myrrh, for he is the ultimate sacrifice, The lamb of God, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” John 1:29, carrying our pain and suffering on the Cross of Golgotha.

We might lack or have limited resources to offer him but first, and at least, we can offer him our hearts and tongues’ praises, He who redeemed us is worthy of all that we have whether spiritually or materially.

Final words

Amidst persecution, we continue to worship and offer our treasures like the wisemen to Him, who has set us free and secured life and eternity before us.

Michael Arteen serves as the Research Tutor with The Shepherd's Academy (TSA) at OCRPL. His research interests include practical theology, holistic church ministry, and refugee ministry in the Middle East.