Christmas in North Korea: Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed.

At Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Immanuel, we are reminded that we serve a loving God who has promised that wherever we are or whatever we face, He will always be with us and will never leave us or forsake us.

God came to earth to be “with us”. His presence, through His Spirit, is a truth that we can cling to every day, alongside our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

We are also reminded that as Christians we are His Ambassadors and that the world will know this by the fact that we love one another (John 13:35).

Throughout 2014, the body of Christ has experienced turbulent times around the world. But this has always been coupled with an overwhelming response from the global church to pray, support and encourage each other in the midst of persecution.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. – Hebrews 13:3

In North Korea, countless Christians are spending Christmas in labour or prison camps. A co-worker of Open Doors’ North Korea team, Jan Vermeer, reflects on Christmas for North Korean Christians:

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Casting Crowns’ song ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ keeps playing in my head as I drive home from the office. I know it’s based on the poem ‘Christmas Bells’, written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1863, after he had lost his family during the Civil War.

As I write this, countless members of my family are spending this Christmas in a North Korean prison or labor camp. I have never met them, but I know them. I’ve spoken to survivors, I’ve read eye-witness reports, psychological analyses and I devour books about the subject with one purpose: to know how my brothers and sisters are spending their days, to realize what they feel, to pray what they pray. Prayer takes us where are our bodies cannot go.

But still…The pain cuts so deep that I can’t reach it. I guess it is the pain you don’t feel that hurts the most. I feel like a small hill in the midst of a thousand unsurmountable mountains, a broken hill. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. I don’t even know if I still want to celebrate Christmas anymore.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

I see a familiar light. Local construction workers have lifted a Christmas tree in one of their cranes, an annual tradition. Its light shines as if the tree is pretending he is the star above Bethlehem pointing out the Savior to everyone who is willing to see. Yes, Jesus was born. God moved into the neighborhood.

Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

I look at the ‘star’ and ‘hear’ the bells. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed.

Have a blessed Christmas and New Year from all of us at Open Doors!

Read Open Doors Christmas Message

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