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The First Christian Refugees: A Christmas Story

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At Christmas we like to focus on the miraculous birth, a beautiful baby, the royal visitors, a bright, guiding star and rich, elaborate gifts.  It’s a powerful story of the greatest gift to all mankind. If it ended with “…and we all lived happily ever after,” we could tie it up with a beautiful red and green bow and go to sleep while sugarplums danced in our heads.

But we often overlook the other side of the story –  the dark side that doesn’t come with a pretty bow. One of a jealous dictator, death threats and a ‘massacre of innocents’ (Matthew 2:16).  One that sends a young couple and their small child fleeing for their lives.* 

It’s an inseparable part of the story – one of persecution, suffering, and death.

We tend to leave this part out when we talk about Christmas. Perhaps because it’s not as warm and fuzzy as a new baby or gifts of gold and myrrh. Or perhaps because it doesn't seem relevant.

But with the birth of the Son of God came the birth of persecution for His name. And 2,000 years later, there are more Christian refugees who are suffering for Christ than ever before. 

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As much as I look forward to the many traditions and celebrations of Christ’s birth, I am reminded that Christmas is an especially dangerous time for millions of our brothers and sisters who live in foreign lands. Violence against Christians usually escalates in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

For millions, the Christmas season means increased church attacks and bombings, and celebrations that lead to beatings, arrests and even death.  From Turkey to Nigeria to Myanmar, Christians are bracing for tragedy. Some will boldly attend services and festivals and others will observe quietly, fearing attention to their faith is an invitation for trouble. 

Let’s joyfully celebrate Jesus as the reason for the season. But let’s also remember that our Savior and our faith is rooted in the cross and it still means persecution for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ today. 

 
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Dominic Sputo is a passionate voice for the poor and persecuted. He authored Heirloom Love: Authentic Christianity for this Age of Persecution. He is the founder of LumenLife, an organization that is awakening and mobilizing Jesus followers by teaching truth and inspiring love so that they will remember and care for their persecuted brothers and sisters.