Christian martyrs abound. As we continue to cheer on a messy “Arab Spring,” there have been attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt. Earlier this year, I was visited by Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Chinese-born Catholic bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, who carries a desperate plea that the world not look away as Christians in his homeland continue to be oppressed if they dare to worship as they choose — as will anyone who shines a light on China’s 31-year-old brutal one-child policy, as Batman actor Christian Bale experienced when he tried to visit blind human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng only days ago. It’s far from only Christians who suffer religious persecution. Try being a Sunni Muslim teacher in Saudi Arabia who discusses the Bible in class or makes favorable comments about Jews — prison terms and lashes for “mocking religion” should not be unexpected.
Christians believe that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) on that first Christmas Day. “The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history,” Pope Benedict XVI recalled in his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” address from Rome last Christmas. “In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Saviour. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the ‘yes’ of our hearts.”
That “yes” may ask us to give up a comfort, rise to a challenge at the office, sacrifice time or money, or put our very lives on the line. For most of us, it won’t be as dramatic as it was for Amariah or Bhatti or the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, who was killed for standing up for Christians and others, calling for the repeal of Pakistan’s harsh and vague blasphemy law.
This Christmas season we might all spare a prayer for young women like Amariah and brave men like Bhatti, and give thanks that we can enter our houses of worship without the fear too many around the world live in, that their “yes” may be their last. And when we sing “Joy to the World,” be inspired that it was because of their love for that child who was born in Bethlehem that they could do no other.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through United Media.