This Christmas Eve, My Thoughts are on Jesus, Massacre, and the Muslim World

As a former Muslim, Christmas always ushers in a host of confusing emotions for me. I was raised not to give it much thought at all. At the age of 16, while working at Sears, the "holiday season" meant 8 different versions of Frosty the Snowman looping endlessly in the small appliances department. It's no surprise I came to detest Christmas.

When I started following Jesus, I wrestled with whether I should join Christians in celebrating Christmas. I was pretty certain that the historical evidence showed Jesus was not born at Christmas time, and that December 25th was originally a day of pagan celebration, the Roman Saturnalia. My Latin teacher had taught me all this in 9th grade. But ultimately, my friend David's argument won me over: "The date really does not matter. We're celebrating the birth of Jesus, and we can do that on any day. It happens to be December 25th."

"The birth of Jesus." Now there's a mind-blowing thought. If you've followed my ministry, you'll know I have never gotten over this. That God would lay aside His majesty and enter into His creation is inestimably overwhelming to anyone who has not grown habituated to it. He lowers Himself when He deserves to be the Highest! He puts Himself last, dying so that none of us will die, paradoxically making Him First and most humble of all. God cares about His children more than His status. He is willing to leave His heavenly home to enter into our suffering. He is willing to be sacrificed when He could be comfortably worshiped, no less than He deserves.

As I consider who the Lord is and what He has done, the events in Syria shape the contours of my reflections. Rebels have recently pillaged, tortured, and killed a city of civilian Christians; the second worst massacre of Christians during this war, involving dead children, human shields, and mass graves. My heart was immediately burdened by hearing the news, but I could remain silent no longer when I read these words, spoken by an Archbishop in Syria, found at NationalReview.com:
We feel forgotten and isolated. We sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?
This Christmas Eve, while we are enjoying the season in our homes, virtually no one is entering into the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Why do we choose to remain comfortable, not sacrificing for our fellow Christians? Is it that we care about our status more than our family? Are we not at this very moment celebrating the very things about Jesus that we are not emulating: self-sacrifice, undue suffering, self-denying love? How can we claim to be His followers if we do not follow Him?

Some might say, "Nabeel, this is certainly an atrocity, but it's one of many in a war that is not ours." You may be right, but why is it that I did not hear about this event until weeks after it happened, when BBC is loudly reporting the death of a young Palestinian girl at the hands of Israel the very day it happened? (BBC Breaking News) Both atrocities in larger contexts, to be sure, but one seems to be unduly silenced by the media.

Some of you will undoubtedly be saying, "But Nabeel, what can we do from here?" Honestly, I don't know. I feel as helpless and frustrated as you do. I am using what little platform I have to say something and inform others, hoping to start a discussion that might be a small part of a lasting change. I speak for myself when I say that I cannot, in good conscience, celebrate Jesus this Christmas Eve while ignoring what He has done and what He commands us to do.

At the very least, let us pray fervently and raise our voices. Pray for respite to our Christian brothers and for a deep-seated calm in the Muslim world. May "peace on earth and goodwill towards men" be cliche no longer on the lips of believers who are, through divine happenstance, comfortable this Christmas Eve. Myself included.

15 comments:

  1. As for the question, “What can we do from here?”, if applied to the broader issue of anti-Christian violence in the Islamic world, the first thing that needs to be done is to dissociate the issue from the rightist agenda. Right now, the notion that Christians is being destroyed and brutalized in the Islamic world is widely considered to be a rightist invention, perpetuated by “Faux” News and warmongering, Islamophobic evangelicals salivating for Muslim blood. While I would never “blame the victim” and do place most of the blame squarely on far-leftist and Islamist bigots who refuse to see the truth of the matter, the fact that most Western advocates for Christians are rightists who associate Islamist anti-Christian violence with the (mostly fictional) War on Christmas, activism for equality for sexual and ethnic minorities, and dreaded socialism, among other things, makes it easy to dismiss the reports of horrendous and well-documented violence as right-wing, evangelical propaganda meant to spread Islamophobia and “racism”. Western Christians need to start appealing to human rights-conscious leftists, setting aside all rightist politics lest they be attached to the issue.

    I mean, just look at the comments section of any leftist news website when it actually reports on anti-Christian violence. After the recent bombing of the Peshawar church in Pakistan, the Huffington Post had a news item about it, and quite a few leftists believed it was justified because the United States’ drone program, which has unintentionally killed many Pakistani civilians, is a Crusade against Muslims. Of course that’s bullsh*t and the people who think that are brain-dead, but it doesn’t help when the same people who advocate for an ineffective approach to fighting terrorism are also the ones most likely to stand up for persecuted Christians.

    I really think the dissociation from rightist politics will be a good start to raising more awareness in the West. Supposedly human rights-conscious leftists will no longer have any excuse to ignore anti-Christian violence.

    Merry Christmas.

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  2. I agree with a lot of what you're saying, GAP. I think if we cry "wolf" too often, the true cry will not be heard. I also agree that there is too much of a victim mentality among many Christians these days. Don't get me wrong, I do think there is a relatively high degree of bias against Evangelical Christians and persecution of Biblical Christian beliefs in this country; but I do not think we should be surprised at this (1 Peter 4:12). Nor should we demand our rights without demanding the rights of others who are oppressed, perhaps even more than our own.

    Thanks for your comments :-)

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  3. My family and I have been in prayer for world issues for some time. I hear your heart and agree. Blessings on you for taking the time to write and post this.

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  4. My heart is burdened for the current plight of the Syrian and Egyptian people, Christian AND Muslim. I've been reading some news reports of the Syrian refugee encampments and hunger/cold issues. Here in Maine we've just lost electricity and heat for a short few days, due to a large ice storm, but there Syrians are living in abandoned buildings and school gymnasiums, driven from their homes, blockaded from their shops. A muslim friend in Egypt has been telling me how they are not "rolling with the punches" there, because of a military coup supported by the US, but they literally "roll with bullets." I was invited to visit Syria several years ago...I'm sure going there is very difficult now. But I endeavor to "enter" these lands with the Holy Spirit. through prayer. I know our Father hears His children, can enter the darkest prison and bring comfort and hope to these suffering people.

    I became a disciple of Christ Jesus at a young age and our family celebrated Christmas annually, however in recent days the paganism of the holiday has caused me to question celebrating it...yet, it came to me this year how the New Age propagates the false idea "Christ/the Sun only came as an enlightenment" (Zeitgeist film, etc), spiritually, that He was never physically born as a man. This is NOT so, as the Gospels, Phil. 2:6-7, and I John 4 tell us; and so, I celebrated Christ's physical birth this year, as Immanuel, looking forward to His second coming! And July is as good a time to sing Carols as December. Always we must remember Christ came as a baby, then grew to become a man, dying in our place and justifying us freely forever!

    I am grateful for your ministry Nabeel. I have recently been sent a video of a Roman catholic priest who converting to Islam, by my muslim friend. I am not catholic, I am Catholic, and am responding with links to your blog and book, which relate your conversion to Christ from Islam.

    May your voice and feet bring the gospel of peace to many nations!

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    1. Though this post is a bit old, for clarity/ correction, the video of the alleged Priest converting to Islam, is not true. A quick verification shows that Priest did not convert.

      One also must ask, what is being Catholic? Is it doing our thing, or what God layed out? When Jesus commands we eat His Flesh, confess our sins to one another, sets up a Hierarchy very similar to that of the Old Covenant (Seat of Moses), are we truly in that Body, or protesting against it?

      If we look at the early Church Father, we see the Catholic Church. The Mass (very similar to Judaism, which makes sense since God is perfect, & thus, unchanging)- actually, very interesting study looking at the Jewishness of the Catholic Mass.

      We see St. Ignatius of Antioch, a student/ diciple of St. John the beloved, clearly believe in the True Presence of the Body/ Soul/ Divinity in the Eucharist (adding a deeper understanding of Biology, & how the food we eat joins to us in such an intimate way, which the early church had no idea, yet their words speak of this spiritual & physical uniting of Jesus to us, when we eat the Eucharist..

      St. Augustine, also was very Catholic..

      Though the Church is filled w/ sinners, so was the Jewush. And Jesus even tells His followers that the Pharisees & scribes speak Truth of God by the Seat of Moses, but to not do as they do. God promised to be w/ His Church always, & not even the gates of Hades will prevail..

      Some things to ponder, & I pray you will read & research on.. God Bless.

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  5. Um, I meant to say, I am part of the holy catholic church, Christ's body by faith - NOT Catholic. Capitalization mistake!

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  6. No worries, paintingglory, thanks for participating on this blog. And you, too, hisperspective7!

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  7. I don't see why everyone just gives into the atheist claims that December 25 is not the date of the Nativity of Our Lord.
    http://taylormarshall.com/2012/12/yes-christ-was-really-born-on-december.html

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    1. Interesting, I had not heard that argued before. Thanks for the counter-perspective, I'll ponder on it :-)

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  8. The Lord give you Peace and all Good! In this little monastery (el conventito as people here call it) prayers go up continually for our Christian brothers and sisters persecuted under ISIS. And for you also, Nabeel. Christ is risen. Alleluia!.... Happy Paascha (Easter)!

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  9. Nabeel please consider the Catholic faith. Do look up Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Jimmy Akin, Steve Ray, Marcus Grodi. I urge you to pray on it and I will pray for you as well. I though I was smarter than a 2000 year old church. I found I was so mistaken.
    BTW. I love your conversion story.

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  10. Lord Jesus please deliver as you delivered Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17. Please deliver Saeed Abedini

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  11. I loved your book. It was amazing! I wondered if you read "did mohammed exist" by Robert Spencer

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  12. I fail to perceive how Christo-ahmadinians see this notion of a god temporarily becoming man as so tear yeildingly inspirational. I'm no expert in antiquity but I'm sure a Roman god delved into a bit of human dallying once or twice

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  13. I completely agree with your views.You know,recently a church have an attack by terrorist? They are now in a condition that they need a church loan to recover those losses.Horrible!

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