Joni B. Hannigan, a member of Christian Examiner's editorial staff, traveled to Kurdistan, Iraq, on assignment with another news organization in 2011 and during that trip formed relationships with members of the education and evangelical community throughout Iraq. Since then she has communicated with Christian believers there and recently was moved by Christmas celebration at churches in Baghdad and in Simele. The local congregations, which have stayed strong despite the unrest there, welcomed refugees persecuted by ISIS and led them in a birthday celebration for Jesus -- and as Joni observed the unhindered praise, she reflects on the hope in Christ, the real meaning of Christmas.
Baghdad, Iraq (Christian Examiner) -- What is Christmas? Christmas is Christ.
It is the hope of the newborn baby lying in a manger. Hope I see on the faces of those in Iraq who are celebrating, yeah, even now, after all the destruction thrown their way – with balloons and cakes, hymns and camraderie.
Christmas is celebrating the birth of a Savior, celebrating the Son of God!
Not even ISIS could take away the hope of the Iraqi Christians.
From the youngest church member clad in a Santa suit, to the oldest – stooped, flipping through the pages in a sacred text – they gathered the week before Christmas to worship, sing, clap, celebrate.
Christmas, Christmas – don't you know? It isn't about the food, the gifts, the travel, or even the family – it's about the Savior.
And there, in that place where children have been beheaded, babies torn from their mother's arms, fathers shot in the villages, sisters raped – a child clutches a flower offering, teen boys lift their voices in praise, and girls dance with joy.
Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say, rejoice. For unto you a child is born, in the City of David. A child who is the Christ. A child who is Hope.