Five or six years ago I ran across an article that I will never forget. It detailed the plight of a pastor in China who had been imprisoned dozens of times for preaching the Gospel in house churches around his region. He had been captured so many times, in fact, that he always carried a duffle bag with a change of clothes in it wherever he went. However, what truly haunted me about this man’s story was his punishment in those Chinese prisons. Many times he was placed on a factory line where he was forced to make thousands of Christmas lights to be sold in the United States.
I was unable to find the original article, but christianity.com has posted the following information about Christians who continue to suffer the same persecution:
For many in the United States, Christmas lights are a nice way to decorate for the holidays and brighten the dreariness of winter. To some, they serve as a reminder of the light in the world as a result of our Savior’s birth.
WorldServe Ministries hopes that these decorations will also prompt believers to pray for more than 1,000 imprisoned Christians in China.
As we buy our Christmas lights, few of us notice the “made in China” tag that is attached. Even fewer know that to benefit China’s economy, the lights were probably made by persecuted prisoners, many of whom are Christian pastors.
According to WorldServe Ministries, pastors are subject to severe conditions and brutal beatings. Many are forced to work 16-20 hours each day assembling strands of Christmas lights. This is done without tools, causing their fingers and hands to bleed from threading the tiny wires through plastic holders and fitting in the plastic bulbs – with a quota of 5,000 bulbs per day.
If their work is not satisfactory, they are beaten and forced to re-do the work in addition to the next day’s quota.
This story is yet another good reason to shop fair trade so that we aren’t supporting these abuses, but it is also a powerful reminder. A popular verse at Christmas time is Isaiah 9:2 which reads,
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
During the Christmas season we love to celebrate the “light” of which this verse speaks, but the above story also compels us to remember the darkness. We live in a dark world where followers of Jesus continue to be persecuted and killed for their faith. And while we don’t like to think about such a somber topic during this season, the darkness is what makes the light so bright. And good.
So yes, celebrate and rejoice! It is good to remember the birth of Christ and to praise God with happy festivities and moments of quiet awe. But let’s also remember those who cannot celebrate so freely. Pray for your brothers and sisters this Christmas who are fighting the good fight in very dark places. When you see the lights on your tree, remember the light of Christ, but also remember the darkness that he came to conquer, as well as your own important role in that battle.