International (MNN) — For many Evangelical and Western Christians, the Christmas trees are down and decorations boxed away. But Christmas isn’t over for everybody. Orthodox believers will celebrate the birth of Jesus tomorrow on January 7th.
The hub of Orthodoxy is in Eastern Europe, but several Orthodox Christians also reside in countries like Syria, Egypt, and Kazakhstan. And in these countries, Orthodox believers may face significant danger tomorrow from extremist attacks as they gather for Christmas services.
Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “If you want to make a statement about your animosity or your hatred of Christians, what better day to do so then Christmas when the birth of Christ is being celebrated?”
The real threat of attack presents a security challenge for Orthodox churches in countries with intense Christian persecution. In some places, government officials will provide military or police protection for churches, but it’s not always a guarantee.
“For the leaders of the Church,…this is a celebration of the birth of Christ. We don’t want it to be about, ‘How many metal detectors did you have to go through to get into the service?’ We want it to be about the birth of Christ…. It’s a challenge to account for the security concerns, but keep the focus on the spiritual nature of the event.”
As our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters prepare for Christmas, Nettleton asks believers to pray for their safety tomorrow as they celebrate Jesus’s birth.
“I think this is a great reminder that the Body of Christ is bigger than the North American Church. It’s bigger than even the Evangelical Church…. I think it’s important for us to comprehend that — the broadness of the Body of Christ and the difference within that Body and celebrate the fact that we are all a part of the Body. We are all brothers and sisters,” Nettleton says.
“So we need to make a point to be aware. We need to make a point to jot a reminder or put something beside our Bible that we’ll see on January 7th and be reminded to pray for the parts of the Body of Christ that are celebrating Christmas that day — and often at great risk.”
Learn more about how VOM supports persecuted Christians at their website here.
Header photo courtesy of Anastasiya Romanova via Unsplash.