Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
This will be the first year that Christmas will not be celebrated in Mosul, Iraq, near the ancient city of Ninevah. For nearly 2,000 years, Mosul had a thriving community of Christians who dwelt peacefully alongside their Muslim neighbors. Division was rare. They all lived in harmony and peace for nearly 2 millennia.
Then came ISIS. In July of 2014, the Christians of Mosul were given an ultimatum: Deny your God or be destroyed.
There are no longer any Christians in Mosul. There are no longer any churches in Mosul. Deep pits all over Iraq are now full of Christians’ bodies, a holocaust in its own right.
And all throughout the Middle East, the cry for peace echoes. In Syria, more than half the population has been displaced by a war that began only a few years ago. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, and all throughout the world the stories all carry the same tune of persecuted people calling for Emmanuel to come.
Much of the world fights for territory, for power, for survival. In America, we fight for ideals, for the right to be right, for the chance to be first. Even our churches are divided, with congregations on one end of the street condemning the ones at the other end.
Division makes its mark on every corner of the world, and even our best attempts at locking arms and singing “We are the World” will never bring true unity again. Only the King – only Emmanuel – can bind the hearts of all mankind. Only He can bring Heaven to Earth.
As we celebrate this day, let’s remember those around the world who are suffering for the very name we speak when we utter the phrase, “Merry Christmas”. Let’s join our hearts with theirs in prayer for peace, for Emmanuel to be with them…to be with us. Let’s pray for unity in our country’s corner of the Body of Christ. Let’s make room for the King of Peace in our homes, our churches, our communities. Let’s be vessels for Emmanuel to walk through, to move through, to speak through. Let’s be the light that brings Emmanuel to the ones who need it most.