"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head"
These words first published in 1885 and written by an unknown author will be sung throughout the world this month, as carol services are held to celebrate Christmas. However, in some countries to sing these words could result in imprisonment or death. In some countries Christians must meet secretly, huddled together in closed rooms, the gospel shared in whispers. They cannot sing for fear of their neighbours alerting the authorities.
At present I'm reading "The Insanity of God" by Nik Ripken, who visited our church last weekend. Nik and his wife Ruth are experts on the suffering of persecuted Christians in countries where their religion is either illegal or discouraged. The magnitude of suffering and oppression directed towards Christians in such nations is appalling.
Nik reminded us that there is one church in this world- the body of Christ, the brothers and sisters who love and serve Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. When one member of the body hurts, we all hurt. When one member of the body rejoices, we all rejoice. So when we come together to sing and rejoice in the freedom to worship that we have in countries like Australia, we do so remembering our brothers and sisters who are suffering elsewhere. We do not forget them. We pray for their safety, empowering strength and comfort in all their difficulties. We try to support them in many ways.
When a missionary returns to an oppressed people, he or she will tell them this :
Because they have no voice, we will sing for them.