I should not be writing right now as I will be having an exam later today (wish me luck!), but here goes:
When I was a kid, I was astounded as I was hearing my teacher mentioning that Christianity is one of the minor religions in Indonesia. At that time, I was just a kid in a Christian school still thinking about the best use of 5000 rupiahs while looking at an array of food wagons in my school’s backyard during break. The reason why my teacher’s statement really surprised me was that being a student in a Christian school meant that all my friends were mostly Christians, which I myself was not at that time. Back then, I felt like I was one of the few who were not accustomed with going to some building weekly with their families to listen to a sermon and worship as a community.
And a few years later, long story short, I joined this band of minorities.
As I grow older, I finally have started to see the implication of Christians being one of the minorities. Yesterday, I found out that a Christmas service that took place in Bandung, Indonesia was disrupted by a religious organizational group. I did not really understand how it all went down but at that time I was just glad that the service was still carried out nevertheless. Despite the fact that the service took place in a way smaller space (what looks like a lobby) compared to the vast hall which is the place it should have originally taken place, I saw the true meaning of being a part of this band of minorities and what Christmas is all about. That it is not about celebrating and singing in an air-conditioned building. It is about Christ being born humbly in a lowly shed so that through His sacrifice, we can live the way we are originally designed to live.
Here are some points that came into mind:
There will always be persecution
The Bible could not have been more clear about the fact that there will always be persecution towards Christians. The early church even suffered from brutal slaughter and many were treated like they were criminals. Most of the 12 disciples even died as martyrs.
Sure, we can move abroad where we may think that Christians are more appreciated. However, this does not change the constant torture that our brothers and sisters in the middle eastern countries, for instance, have to endure daily. And perhaps they are currently experiencing such persecution as you are reading (and as I am writing this) right now. Furthermore, this also will not change the persecution that one day we may face either way. One thing should be made clear, that Christians should not walk in this world looking for the worldly comfort, but to live as people who have been granted an eternal inheritance in Christ.
To the church in Corinth, Paul in one of his epistles reminded them of the glory that awaits, which far outweighs what he put as light momentary affliction:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Being a Christian is a calling to love instead of drowning ourselves in self-pity
During the Christmas service in Bandung, Stephen Tong, the preacher who led the service said, “Natal bukan hari kebencian, Natal adalah hari cinta kasih. (Christmas is not a day of hate, but a day of love)” Such statement may sound easier said than done, but seeing how Pak Tong really practiced this despite such pressure he must have endured, I would say that this guy is the real deal. What amazes me is that he focuses on what he thinks Christians should do (loving others as God has loved us) instead of fixing on the obstacles that he and his ministry were facing at that time.
Christmas is a calling to love not only our brothers and sisters who hold the same faith, but others as well. Making war with those that some Christians may regard as enemies might seem easier compared to loving them. Sure, it will be tremendously hard if we were to do it only with our might. But thanks be to God, for through Christ He gave an example of how perfect love looks like. We ourselves have been subjected to that immeasurable amount of affection back when all that we did were nothing but rebel. That affection looks like Christ, and He is the sole reason why we celebrate Christmas.
That in His humility, His hands washed His disciples’ feet, the very hands that were to be nailed to the cross. The birth of Jesus lying in a lowly manger who very well knew the kind of path He was going to take is the definition of true love. As we have been made aware of such perfect love, hopefully then it will begin to look a lot like true Christmas.
Now let me end this blogpost with one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. I pray that that this verse will really sink in and pierce through our hearts. I pray, that the thought of the Son leaving a perfect fellowship between the Father and the Holy Spirit so that we may join them in their harmonic joy of being loved and pleased with each other will encourage us to love more. Not loving in order that we may work our way to acquire eternal life, but being compelled to love radically because we have been given a taste of the perfect joy that awaits and that He has moved us from death to life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
On some other thought, let me leave you here a few other verses showing Christ petitioning that we may join Him in His perfect fellowship:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Oh, finally, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!