Indonesia: 90,000 soldiers to guard Christians in 50,000 churches for Christmas services

December 24, 2018 by  
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Indonesia, December 23, 2018: As many as 90,000 soldiers will be guarding more than 50,000 churches across Indonesia in an effort to thwart terror attacks during Christmas.

Francis Xavier Ping Tedja, security coordinator at Santa Maria Church, told UCA News earlier this week that 70 police officers and members of Banser — the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest moderate Muslim group in the country, will guard the church for Christmas services.

“We have coordinated with police, military, and Islamic groups to maintain the security, so that Catholics can attend Christmas masses comfortably and safely,” Tedja said.

“We hope Catholics will not be afraid to attend Christmas masses at the church,” he added.

The church in Surabaya, East Java, was attacked by suicide bombers in May. The terrorists, linked with the Islamic State terror group, targeted three churches in the world’s most populous Islamic nation, killing 18 people.

Father Antonius Suyadi, chairman of the Jakarta Archdiocese’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Commission, added that the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta will be secured by 300 police and military personnel.

“Besides the cathedral church, police and military forces will also guard other Catholic churches in the archdiocese,” Suyadi explained.

As police combat terrorist threats, the nation’s leaders continue to work on reconciliation efforts that include terror attack survivors meeting face-to-face with people who’ve carried out bombings.

A three-day first-of-its-kind event was staged in March in Jakarta, where 124 convicted terrorists met 51 survivors of attacks and their family members.

One former Islamic radical who killed three people in 2002 spoke of his regret for what he did.

“I have repented and I will help the government educate others not to follow a radical path as I did,” Mokhtar Daeng Lau said at the time.

Another man by the name of Sumarno, who took part in 2002 Bali bombings where Islamic radicals killed over 200 people, added: “I deeply regret what I have done. I did not expect that so many victims were our brothers and sisters.”

“It’s hard and saddens me to see survivors who are now suffering from permanent disabilities,” the man added.

“I had not imagined the impact would be like that. I am sorry and have apologized to them.”

IS, which in the past couple of years has lost significant territory in Iraq and Syria, has been escalating attacks into other nations with large Islamic majorities, such as Egypt and Indonesia.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that U.S. troops will leave Syria, declaring that the terror group has been defeated.

Johannes de Jong, a Netherlands-based director of Sallux, an association that serves as the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement, told The Christian Post that IS is not yet defeated, however.

“[The U.S. withdraw] means basically that you sacrifice the Christian community of northeast Syria for the Jihadists. If that happens, it is the end of the ten thousands of Christians in Northeast Syria,” he warned.

Similarly, one of the nation’s leading Christian conservative advocacy groups that has been supportive of the Trump administration has also warned that Trump’s plans for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will put Christian communities in “mortal danger.”

In an op-ed co-written by Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, the organization’s executive vice president, and Travis Weber, a former Navy pilot and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who serves as FRC’s vice president for policy, argue that withdrawing troops won’t result in Trump’s stated campaign promise to defeat the Islamic State.

“While ISIS has suffered, it is not finished,” the men wrote, adding that reports show that the terrorists still control territory with forces capable of mounting another insurgency in the future.

– christian post

Christmas IQ quiz

December 24, 2018 by  
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How well do you know the Christmas story?

Most of us know the general outline because we’ve heard or sung it or watched it being enacted in the Christmas programs that most churches offer during December. We know about the shepherds, the angels, the “Wise Men,” the star, the innkeeper, the long journey of Mary and Joseph, the baby in the manger, and we know about the gold, frankincense and myrrh. But how much of what we know is tradition and how much comes from the Bible?

For the last several years David Langerfeld, associate pastor of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, has given a Christmas IQ test to his Sunday School class. I should warn you that this is a tough quiz. When I took it, I missed several questions. Try taking it first without checking the Bible to see how well you know the real Christmas story.

Scroll to the end to read the answers (along with a few additional comments from me).

1. Joseph was originally from… (Luke 2:3)
A. Bethlehem
B. Nazareth
C. Hebron
D. Jerusalem
E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
A. “There is no room in the inn.”
B. “I have a stable you can use.”
C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
D. Both A and B
E. None of the above

3. A manger is a…
A. Stable for domestic animals
B. Wooden hay storage bin
C. Feeding trough
D. Barn

4. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
A. Cows, sheep, goats
B. Cows, donkeys, goats
C. Sheep and goats only
D. Miscellaneous barnyard animals
E. None of the above

5. Who saw the star in the east?
A. Shepherds
B. Mary and Joseph
C. Three kings
D. Both A and C
E. None of the above

6. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
A. Camel
B. Donkey
C. Walked
D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
E. Horse-drawn chariot
F. Who knows?

7. How many angels spoke to the shepherds? (Luke 2:10)
A. One
B. Three
C. Multitude
D. None of the above

8. What did the angels say/sing? (Luke 2:14)
A. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
B. “Alleluia”
C. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”
D. “Joy the world, the Lord is come”
E. “Glory to the newborn King”

9. What is a heavenly host?
A. The angel at the gate of heaven
B. The angel who serves refreshments in heaven
C. An angel choir
D. An angel army
E. None of the above

10. There was snow that first Christmas…
A. Only in Bethlehem
B. All over Israel
C. Nowhere in Israel
D. Somewhere in Israel

11. What is frankincense?
A. A precious metal
B. A precious fabric
C. A precious perfume
D. None of the above

12. In Matthew, what does “wise men” or “Magi” refer to?
A. Men of the educated class
B. Eastern kings
C. Men who studied the stars
D. Sages

13. What is myrrh?
A. Middle Eastern money
B. A drink
C. An easily shaped metal
D. A spice used for burying people
E. None of the above

14. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
A. 3
B. 6
C. 9
D. 12
E. We don’t know.

15. Where did the wise men find Jesus? (Matthew 2:11)
A. In a manger
B. In a stable
C. In Nazareth
D. In Saudi Arabia
E. In a house
F. None of the above

16. When the wise men found Jesus he was… (Matthew 2:11)
A. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
B. A young child
C. A boy in the temple
D. A grown man

17. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed… (Matthew 2:9)
A. Stayed in the same place their entire journey
B. Disappeared and reappeared
C. Moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was
D. Was just a mirage
E. None of the above

18. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem… (Matthew 2:2)
A. To inform Herod about Jesus
B. To find out where Jesus was
C. To ask about the star
D. To buy presents
E. None of the above

19. Where do we find the Christmas story?
A. Matthew
B. Mark
C. Luke
D. John
E. All of the above
F. Only A and B
G. Only A and C
H. Only A, B and C

20. When Joseph found Mary was pregnant, what happened?
A. They got married
B. Joseph wanted to break the engagement
C. Mary left town for three months
D. A and B
E. B and C

21. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-5)
A. The angel chorus
B. Mary’s mother
C. Herod
D. The shepherds
E. Caesar Augustus

Answers are below. Your comments are always welcome.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.

***ANSWERS***

Here are the answers to David Langerfeld’s Christmas IQ Quiz. I have added my comments to a few answers.

1. A. He worked and lived in Nazareth, but he was returning to Bethlehem – “his own city” (See Luke 2:3).

2. E. The innkeeper didn’t “say” anything (See Luke 2:7). The Bible doesn’t even mention an “innkeeper” because the “inn” was probably more like a guest room in a house.

3. C. Feeding trough – Interestingly enough, most mangers in New Testament times were made of stone. If you visit Israel today, you can see stone mangers used by Solomon to feed his horses at Megiddo.

4. E. The Bible doesn’t say, we just assume that since Jesus was born in a stable that there were various barnyard animals present. This is really a double assumption because the Bible doesn’t mention a barn or a stable. However, the feeding trough was used by animals so a stable or barn adjoining a home would be a reasonable inference.

5. E. This is a “trick” question. The “magi” saw the star. However, the Bible doesn’t say how many there were and they were not kings, but astronomers (see answer 14).

6. F. Although the modern “pictures” in my Children’s Bible show Mary on a donkey with Joseph beside her, the Bible doesn’t say!

7. A. Luke 2:10. A semi-trick question because verses 13-14 record what the angel company said as they praised God together. However, only one angel spoke directly to the shepherds.

8. A. Luke 2:14.

9. D. The word means “army” – literally thousands. Now, since there was a “multitude” of the heavenly army” (hosts), there could easily have been from 10,000 – 100,000 angels there that night! No wonder the shepherds were “sore afraid”! I missed this one when I took the quiz because I thought the word “host” referred only to a large multitude, but D is correct. It refers to a heavenly army of angels.

10. D. Another trick question. There is always snow on Mt. Hermon. I thought this was a very good question that I missed when I took the quiz.

11. C. Frankincense was used in the temple worship of the Lord. It represents his deity because he is truly God born in human flesh.

12. C. The word “Magi” literally means “star-gazers”. Although there is no Biblical record of exactly who they were or their point of origin, I personally believe that they were descendants of the “wise men” of Babylon. I believe that God, in His great providence, used Daniel (while he was in captivity in Babylon), to teach these men about future events – including the birth of the Savior of the world. Read Daniel 5:11 – Daniel was put in charge of these men! David chose “C. Men who studied the stars” so that’s the answer we’re going with. But A or D would work also. Who were the magi? They were the professors and philosophers of their day. They were trained in history, religion, prophecy and astronomy. They were also trained in what we would call astrology.

13. D. Herod was buried with over 150 lbs. of Myrrh wrapped in his burial clothes. Myrrh was used in embalming in those days. John 19:39 tells us that Jesus’ body was bound in linen wrappings along with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. The gift of myrrh pictures his suffering and death.

14. E. We don’t know. They were magi, not wise men – but the Bible doesn’t give the number. Many people assume that there were three because of the three gifts. However, in ancient times these men usually traveled in caravans of ten to twelve, along with a full entourage for protection.

15. E. Read Matthew 2:11 (see next answer)

16. B. Read Matthew 2:11 When the Shepherds found Jesus (Luke 2), he was a “babe” in a manger. The Greek word used in Luke 2 is for a “newborn baby”. However, by the time the Magi appeared, Jesus had been moved from the manger to a house (verse 11) and the Greek word used in Matthew is for “toddler or young child”. He was probably somewhere between 12-24 months old. David is totally correct on this point. In many of our Christmas programs, we bring the magi and the shepherds to worship Jesus together at the manger. Nice thought and it makes for a beautiful scene, but it didn’t happen that way. The shepherds were there the night Jesus was born. The magi came months later.

17. C. Read Matthew 2:9 Most people miss this question. The star did not stay stationary over the manger or the house. This verse makes it clear that the star moved “in front” of the magi and guided them till it “stood over where the young child was.” I missed this one because I chose “B. The star disappeared and reappeared.” I think you can infer that from Matthew 2:9, which can be read to say that they saw the star in the east, knew from prior study that the baby was to be born in Bethlehem, and made the journey across the desert. And then the star reappeared when they journeyed to Bethlehem. That’s a possible reading of the text. But “A. Stayed in the same place” is clearly wrong. So here’s the deal. We’re going with C. because that’s what the quiz says. B. is possible but you get no credit, only my sympathy for missing it with me.

18. B. Read Matthew 2:2. They assumed Herod would know. I find it fascinating that although the scribes knew exactly where the Messiah was to be born (according to Micah 5:2), they were not interested enough to travel the four or five miles to Bethlehem to see for themselves. (Several commenters note that the Magi wouldn’t have known Jesus’ name. Very true, which is part of what makes this quiz tricky–and so much fun. They were looking for the one born “King of the Jews.” They would have found out later that his name was Jesus. But that aside, B is still the only possible answer.)

19. G. Isn’t it amazing how God divinely inspired these two gospel writers to write His exact words, but he used their interests and professions to recall different aspects of Jesus’ birth. Matthew, a tax collector, records the genealogy of Jesus (used for taxation) and the “magi” – men of means from a foreign country. Luke, a physician, records the pregnancy and birth.

20. E. Joseph wants to “put her away” secretly and Mary left town to see her cousin. Matthew 1:19 and Luke 1:39, 56 The phrasing here is ambiguous. This question is really asking what happened first because A, B and C all happened eventually. D would be correct if you reversed the order. The correct order is probably C, B, A. David’s answer is E so that’s what I’m going with, but if you prefer C, that works too.

21. E. “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus… everyone into his own city… “ (Luke 2:1-5). This is a tricky question because Caesar Augustus never met Mary and Joseph and almost certainly never even heard of them. He “made” them return to Bethlehem only in the sense that he gave the order for the census, forcing Joseph and Mary to make the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the latter stages of Mary’s pregnancy.

– cross walk

Why Christians in Nepal need the gift of Christmas

December 24, 2018 by  
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Nepal, December 24, 2018: Religion was one of the most discussed issues of the year in Nepal, fueled by the government’s draft policy on faith-based NGOs, a new act banning proselytization and criminalizing religious conversion, and a less than flattering report from the European Union on the national election.

In fact, religious minorities including Christian communities have found themselves struggling to exist in a shrinking space since January amid a general clampdown on freedom of religious expression.

Nepal’s two-phase legislative election, the political hot cake of the previous New Year, took place on Nov. 26 and Dec. 7, 2017, just months before the nation held its third presidential election on March 13.

In its February report, the EU’s Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) raised a number of concerning issues including how Christians were not represented in the election despite comprising 1.4 percent of the population.

It singled this out for criticism as Nepal’s electoral system supposedly operates on a proportional representation system.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) responded with a press release in March citing its dissatisfaction with the EU.

Some critics of the European body said it was loath to see Nepal making social progress due to its communist leadership.

Others saw it as a response to fears the country may be “too pro-India,” after representatives from both countries met in Brussels and agreed there were flaws in Nepal’s constitution.

Under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is seen as being unhappy with the direction Nepal has been taking, for example, abolishing its monarchy and establishing secularism. Moreover, there have been a number of conflicts involving Terai-based Madheshi political parties, which have close ties to New Delhi.

This assumption gained more credibility when India was accused of triggering an economic and humanitarian crisis in Nepal — which as a landlocked country relies on its bigger neighbor for all of its petroleum supplies — by launching an undeclared blockade on the country in September 2015, the same month Nepal passed its long-stalled charter.

New Delhi responded by denying the blockade and blaming the shortages on (India-backed) Madheshi protesters, who claimed the new constitution violated their human rights and sought to further marginalize them.

Inflamed by the content of the recent EUEOM report, nationalistic Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli requested the European body “correct” it with immediate effect. He said it was “unacceptable” for the agency to interfere with religious issues in Nepal.

Many Nepalese still eye Christianity warily as a so-called “greenback-funded foreign religion.”

But I would argue the Christian population is not even acknowledged as a minority group in Nepal.

Christian leaders claim there are over 12,000 churches in the country and a total of three million Christians. That means as much as 10 percent of the population could identify with the religious faith. As such, their representatives in parliament should be more demanding.

National integrity

In April, a 23-page draft of the National Integrity Policy was released as the government sketched out plans to tightly control non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially those suspected of proselytizing via foreign Christian and other faith-based groups.

I believe this was a direct manifestation of the anger K.P. Oli felt at the EUEOM report.

This policy would have prevented campaigning on issues such as the rights of indigenous people, migrants and refugees, as well as freedom of expression and of religious belief.

However, after much criticism, the office of the prime minister held broader consultations with more stakeholders and sought feedback that could be incorporated into the policy.

It seems the policy is still being discussed, as the final version has not been made available yet.

The government is encouraging NGOs not to get involved in religious activities. I am aware that the social welfare council (SWC), the government agency responsible for monitoring NGOs, does not allow projects on inter-faith dialogue and religious harmony nowadays.

It rejects the fact that larger numbers of civic associations and religious bodies still have to register as NGOs.

SWC officers scrutinize proposed projects and mark out any “controversial” words or phrases such as religion, inter-faith dialogue, religious harmony, faith-based groups, integral, and holistic, to name a few.

Code word: crackdown

The Criminal Code (Act) passed by Nepal’s parliament in 2017 criminalizes religious conversion. It took effect in August, triggering the arrests of some Nepalese Christians and the deportation of certain foreign missionaries.

In July, the government fined and deported a foreign couple on charges of religiously converting others.

Later in October a member of Nepal’s security personnel was arrested for giving testimony at a religious conference.

Meanwhile, 10 evangelists were nabbed in November in two separate incidents, along with one Japanese, an Australian, and five Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This was a clear indication of how the criminalization of religious activities is specifically targeting Christian groups.

Government officials also recently requested that a Biblical epithet be removed from a hospital building financed by a Christian faith-based NGO in western Nepal’s Surkhet District.

Yet several statues of the Hindu deity Shiva that featured prominently in its garden, as well as an image of Lord Krishna hanging above its front door, were left untouched.

There have also been cases where Christian-run schools and homes have been accused of proselytizing by conducting morning and evening prayers, or offering counseling services for children.

The authorities seem to have conveniently forgotten that many senior bureaucrats, including members of the royal family, have benefited from the more comprehensive and cheaper education these private schools offer.

As a final insult, the public was invited to give feedback on the Criminal Code on April 14, 2016 but Christian leaders say their suggestions fell on deaf ears despite submitting over 45,000 petitions.

Some have compared the severity of the situation to Muslim-majority Pakistan with its strict blasphemy laws.

Whether this is a legitimate argument or not, the provisions in the nation’s new Criminal Code further distance Nepal from its international human rights’ commitments.

Dust of secularism

In contrast to the SWC officers, K.P. Oli’s nationalistic secularism seems to have turned into what we in Nepali refer to as lampasarbad — or the bureaucratic tendency to prostrate oneself at another’s foot.

For example, vast government resources were mobilized for the hosting of the Asia-Pacific summit of the Korean Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Kathmandu in early December.

The public voiced its displeasure after reports emerged the government had spent over US$1 million in providing security for VIPs and generally staging the summit, a platform for high-level interfaith dialogue and other issues.

After people cottoned on to the UPF’s connection to the wealthy Korean Unification Church, the government began taking flak from other politicians, influential leaders from the ruling party itself and the media for supporting what many consider to be a quirky religion, or even a cult.

The Unification Church was founded in 1954 by messiah claimant Sun Myung Moon of South Korea. His followers, often referred to pejoratively as “Moonies,” adhere to a unique Christian theology.

This year ahead of Dashain, the country’s most important Hindu festival that falls in October, the office of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari issued a public notice inviting senior officials, political figures, businesspeople and members of the public to dab a red mark on their forehead.

It is worth pointing out here that secularism in Nepal is not absolute, in the sense that religions are not fully detached from the state. In fact, most state sectors have close practical ties to the rules and laws that apply to Hinduism.

I don’t see any rationale behind banning interfaith dialogue in a country like Nepal where most people have deeply-rooted religious values. Such dialogue is needed to prevent conflict.

And of course, all religious groups should be treated equally, and freedom of religious or belief has to be guaranteed.

Christian unity

I see the lack of ecumenical collaboration between the numerous Christian denominations and several parallel federations who are active in Nepal as being among the biggest challenges for Nepal’s Christian community. Moreover, there are numerous cults similar to Moon’s UPF that many Churches do not acknowledge as being a legitimate part of Christianity, yet they remain more active on the ground than other denominations.

These cults, whether they are genuine branches of Christianity or not, as viewed by the general public and government as being “on the same page” as Nepal’s broader Christian community.

Despite all these doctrinal differences, however, and as anti-Christian sentiment continues to grow in Nepal, Christian groups must not forget the age-old mantra, “united we stand, divided we fall.” They should combine their efforts to bring society closer for the common good.

By the same token, they should open their hearts and foster friendly ties with more prominent religions in the country.

Peace will only be possible if minority groups can also enjoy justice and everyone tries to be more sensitive to cultural, social and religious differences.

Hopefully, the government can get the ball rolling by making Christmas a public holiday so all Nepalis can celebrate their respective faiths respectfully.

– ucan

Blessings this CHRISTmas from Team CSF

December 24, 2018 by  
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We said a prayer for you & your loved ones.
May the Blessings of the
New-born Babe of Bethlehem be with You.
Team CSF & bro. Joe Dias

Christ symbolised peace, harmony and hope, says President on Christmas eve

December 24, 2018 by  
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New Delhi, December 24, 2018: Greeting people on the eve of Christmas on Monday, President Ram Nath Kovind said Jesus Christ symbolised peace, harmony and hope.

On the occasion of Christmas, I extend my warm greetings and best wishes to all fellow citizens in India and abroad, especially to my Christian brothers and sisters,’’ he said here in a message.

Christmas is a celebration of human values that nurture mutual caring and sharing and transform life itself into a festival,’’ he said.

May this Christmas inspire us to promote fraternity and humaneness in our nation and across our planet,’’ he said.

– uni

Christmas festivities grips Assam

December 24, 2018 by  
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Assam, December 24, 2018: The Christmas festivity gripped Assam on Monday with Churches decorated with nativity scenes, brightly lit X-mas trees, colourful lights and singing of carols to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

With a festive atmosphere prevailing in the state where Christianity is the third largest religion, private homes belonging to both Christians and other people were lit up with decorative lights and stars adding to the happy festival.

Shops selling Christmas trees, bright tree ornaments, colourful bubbles, lanterns, stars, Santa clauses, red caps have sprang up along roads.

People have started thronging the 175-year old Christ Church founded in 1844, Guwahati Baptist Church established in 1845 as well as Don Bosco Church along with other churches in the state.

Besides thronging the churches to attend special prayers and soak in the festive atmosphere, people are also visiting various public halls where Christmas celebrations and carols were sung spreading the message of peace among all.

Christmas cheer also gripped the hill district of Dima Hasao where the Christian population is nearly 30 per cent and Karbi Anglong where the faithfuls comprise 16.5 per cent of the population as per the 2011 census.

As per records, two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries – Cabral and Cacella – were the first Christian Missionaries to set foot in Assam followed by missionary work by Nathan Brown and Oliver Cutter from USA in 1836.

– india.com

Christmas 2018: History, Importance & Significance of Christmas festival in India

December 24, 2018 by  
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India, December 24, 2018: Celebrated across the world on December 25 every year, the day marks the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the second of the Holy Trinity of Christianity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).

According to the Bible, Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem to Mother Mary and Saint Joseph. The virgin Mother Mary was engaged to Joseph when she miraculously conceived through the Holy Spirit. She was foretold about this by an angel of God, who further said she will name the child Jesus and he will be known as the Messiah, or saviour. The shepherds were the first to see the newborn, following them, three kings from far away lands, guided by the star of David, visited the baby and offered him precious gifts.

In 336 A.D., Emperor Constantine or Constantine the Great, a Christian Roman Emperor, declared that December 25 will be celebrated as Christmas to mark the birth of Christ. Over the centuries, it has become one of the biggest festivals to be observed all over the world. Celebrations start from December 24 (Christmas Eve) and continue till December 26 (Boxing Day).

The birth of Christ is an event of utmost importance to the followers of Christianity as it is believed that God had sent his Son on earth as a sacrifice to redeem the people of the world from their sins. This sacrifice denotes crucifixion of Christ.

Many attend the midnight mass at churches followed by an elaborate Christmas feast on this day. Christmas carols and Santa Claus are important part of the festivity too.

During this time, pine trees are decorated with colourful bells, candles, candies, stars and gift stockings. Most of the Christmas decorations consist of four colours — red, green, golden and white, and they have their significance as well. While green denotes eternal life, red signifies the blood Christ shed, golden denotes royalty (he was known as the Son of David, the King of Israel) and white denotes peace.

The Christmas feast is a delicious spread that the entire family enjoys together. The traditional Christmas meal comprises of delicacies such as roasted turkey, gingerbread, roasted chicken, mince-pie, Christmas cake, pudding, eggnog, mashed potatoes and mulled wine.

– indian express

18 affordable ways families can celebrate Christmas

December 18, 2018 by  
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Need a little Christmas spirit that doesn’t break the bank? Check out these low-cost and free ways to commemorate the reason for the season.

In these times of economic uncertainty, many of us yearn for a simpler, less stressful holiday season. “There is a universal wish to end the year with a festival of renewal that rekindles our faith, brings us closer to the people we care to ward off the commercial excesses of the season and create an authentic, joyful celebration in tune with our unique needs and desires,” write authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli in Unplug the Christmas Machine.

How can you accomplish this? First, think about what children really want for Christmas, such as time with family, an unhurried holiday and family and cultural traditions. Then keep your focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

Pick a few of the following low-cost and free ways to celebrate the season with our families and friends, or use the ideas as a starting place to create your own unique holiday traditions.

Christmas is More Than One Day

Want to enjoy Christmas all month long? Then check out these ideas for celebrating Dec. 1 through 25 and beyond.

Marking time. Advent calendars are a great way to help children count down to Christmas Day and to interject the true meaning of Christmas in the process. Have your children count off numbers and then rotate those numbers to avoid squabbles over whose turn is it to place the star of Bethlehem in the heavens. Cost: Low-cost or free.

Reading Christmas. Each Dec. 1, we get out our Christmas books and holiday movies. Each day during December, one child picks a book or movie for the entire family to watch or read together. Variations of this include wrapping the books and movies separate and having the kids pick something sight unseen. Rebekah Hammer of Tijunga, Calif., does this with her family. “Books can be gotten free or cheap on eBay, Paperbackswap or used book stores,” she says. Also consider a holiday-themed book swap with friends to get an influx of new material or visit your library to snag some books to read. Cost: Low-cost to free.

Deck the Halls

Decorations can bring cheer to any occasion and Christmas is no exception. Check out these fun ideas that revolve around decorating your home.

Decorating party. Get the whole family involved in putting up the tree and other Christmas decorations by planning a specific time. Serve hot chocolate, play Christmas music and turn lose your decorating muse. Cost: Free.

Remembering our animal friends. Pop plain popcorn and string the popped kernels with fresh cranberries. Place the ropes on an outside tree or bush near a window and watch the birds enjoy their Christmas treat. “Paint” pinecones with peanut or other nut butters, attach a string and hang up in a tree for the squirrels to enjoy. Cost: Low-cost.

A Musical Season

Music has a way of lifting hearts and getting everyone into the Christmas spirit. Here are some musical ways to enjoy your holiday season.

Caroling, caroling through the neighborhood. Gather together a group of songbirds from your family and friends for an afternoon or evening spent serenading neighbors. Practice four or five Christmas hymns and end the concert with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Consider visiting area nursing or retirement communities, hospitals or hospices and even your local mall (with permission!) to spread some holiday cheer. Cost: Free.

A musical Christmas evening. Sit by the tree and sing Christmas carols, have children or adults play Christmas favorites on instruments and read “The Night Before Christmas” or other holiday poems or short books aloud. Serve holiday cookies and wassail to get into the spirit of the evening. Cost: Free.

Attend a Christmas concert or play. Many churches put on free, beautiful productions of the Christmas story in songs and plays. Call area houses of worship, check local newspaper listings, and ask family and friends for recommendations of performances. Cost: Free.

Bright Lights

Christmas also can cheer up our lives with the many light displays that range from the simple to the eye-popping. Here are some suggestions for enjoying the brightness of the season.

Neighborhood lights. One evening, have everyone get into their pajamas and pile into the family car for a drive around the neighborhood to ogle the handiwork of your neighbors. Wrap up a plate of holiday baked goods to give to the owners of the house voted by your family as the most Christmasy. Cost: Free.

Light shows. Most localities have a light show within easy driving distance. These shows are generally in a park and feature large and innovative light displays. Weekends are peak visiting time, so if you don’t like crowds, pick a weekday evening. Our family has a tradition of going to see the local light show after Christmas to avoid the crush. Most venues charge by the car-load. Cost: Low-cost.

Handmade from the Heart

Here are some ideas for spreading Christmas cheer you can make yourself.

Ornaments. Tree ornaments can be made from almost anything, including things you have around the house. Most of the raw materials are inexpensive to purchase and instructions for a variety of homemade ornaments abound on the Internet. (Here’s a craft site with dozens of ideas.) Some ideas of things that can become tree decorations include clothespins, Mason jar lids, pine cones, lightweight photo frames, buttons, fabric scraps, etc. Cost: Low-cost.

Holiday cards. Have your little ones get creative and draw festive scenes, scan and print on card stock for handmade Christmas greetings. Using holiday stamps on card stock will work, too. Cost: Low-cost.

Homemade wrapping paper. Turn your kids loose with stamps, glitter, markers and their imagination on a roll of butcher paper and use it for wrapping presents. Cost: Low-cost.

Video cheer. Record an original family Christmas presentation with skits and songs. Make DVD copies and sent to far-off relatives and friends. “We live quite a distance form family,” says Deborah Tate of Lake Worth, Fla. “So to compensate, when our children were young, we always starred in our own homemade, family Christmas video production. The grandparents and everyone else always enjoyed seeing our family Christmas show.”

Christmas is Giving

At this time of year, it’s also important to focus on those who are struggling. Helping others can boost our own holiday spirits.

Adopt a family. If you’re able, consider sponsoring a family in need this holiday. Area nonprofit groups like food banks often have programs that link a needy family with a sponsor. Our family does this each year and our children love to go shopping for that family’s children. Cost: Low-cost.

Volunteer. Soup kitchens, food banks, and other nonprofit groups have need of extra hands during the holiday season, so consider signing up as a family to help out. Cost: free.

Smile. Just having a cheerful countenance can make someone’s day. Try to smile as you go about your errands. Treat each sales clerk and cashier with kindness. Don’t be a Scrooge with your face—smile. Cost: free.

Christmas Day

When December 25 finally arrives, here are some ways to keep the true meaning of Christmas front and center.

Read the Christmas story. No matter which Gospel you pick, reading the Christmas story with your family around the tree can be a special time. Hearing the story of God incarnate becoming man sounds as fresh today as when it was new more than two centuries ago.

Birthday of Jesus. Singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus or baking Jesus a birthday cake can help everyone remember Dec. 25 is celebrated as his birth date. Nancy Swarthout of Kasson, Minn., bakes a cake for Jesus at Christmas. “It reminds my family that Jesus is the reason for Christmas and it is not about Santa. We also say a special prayer before we have the cake thanking God for sending us his son,” she says.

No matter how you celebrate Christmas, keep in mind that your family is not like anyone else’s—and your holiday traditions don’t have to be, either. Use these ideas to develop your own Christmas traditions and cherished holiday memories.

– cross walk

Protests in Bulgaria as religious minorities threatened by proposed changes to the law

December 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Bulgaria, December 11, 2018: Concerned for religious liberty in Bulgaria, Christians gathered in Sofia for three consecutive Sundays on 11, 18 and 25 November, protesting planned amendments to the Law on Religious Communities.

If passed, the amendments would place restraints on evangelising, bans on worship outside officially recognised buildings, restrictions on training denominational ministers and a membership threshold of 300 people required for official recognition of religious groups. Financial donations are also being targeted, with the state demanding greater control over “international donations for religious purposes”.

Alarm has been raised by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom who supported the Baptist World Alliance in a letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, writing, “No state, we believe, should be in a position to control the training and activities of ecclesiastical ministers, nor should a state favour one faith expression over another … our concern [is] that the implementation of this law could lead to unintended restrictions on religious freedom and the direct persecution of churches and individuals of faith.”

Christer Daelander, religious freedom representative of the European Baptist Federation, wrote to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe outlining that the proposed amendments to Bulgarian law would violate the United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion as well as similar European conventions.

The Bulgarian constitution itself guarantees freedom of religion stating, “The practising of any religion shall be unrestricted.”

– barnabas persecution update

World’s first Christian airline to cater to missionaries, charge no luggage fee

December 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

U.S., December 18, 2018: Christians traveling around the world and locally for mission trips and religious tours may soon be able to kiss lost luggage and baggage fees goodbye as Judah 1, an aviation ministry out of Texas is set to become the world’s first Christian airline.

The ministry announced on Wednesday that the FAA had accepted their application to switch from a private operator to “becoming the first and only Christian Airline!” last month.

“This means Judah 1 (upon receiving its DOT and 121 Certification) will have the freedom to transport as many different churches and mission organizations as we can. This is a huge honor and privilege and we give God all the glory! We will be posting more information as we are able. Thank you so much Judah 1 partners and friends for making this possible!”

The ministry’s website explains that it serves missions-minded Christian people of all denominations traveling to the mission fields of the world. Their planes have also delivered hundreds of missionaries and transported thousands of pounds of cargo.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Monday, Everett Aaron, founder and CEO of Judah 1, explained that he hopes that the ministry’s airline status will be approved by next summer and noted that the FAA has been very supportive of their efforts.

“If everything goes as planned we are looking at some time in the summer of 2019,” he said.

While Christian customers can expect to pay competitive ticket prices with Judah 1, Aaron is assuring his potential customer base that they will no longer have to worry about baggage fees and travel hazards like lost luggage.

“We will have to charge regular ticket prices just like you do for the [other] airlines. This is not available for just the general public, you have to be part of a mission team. It will be very competitive with the airlines. The advantage is there’s no luggage fees. Absolutely none. All your cargo travels with you as well. So that’s the biggest thing,” Aaron said.

He pointed to research that shows how frequently Christians traveling on mission trips tend to lose their cargo and said it’s one of the burdens of missionaries traveling with secular airlines that Judah 1 hopes to eliminate.

“About 50 percent of missionaries lose their cargo when it travels via container and that’s one of the problems we have. I know some of the trips we have been on ourselves with other missionary groups traveling, they ship their stuff via container and medical supplies and stuff either get tied up in customs, food spoils, some things it just gets lost,” he said.

Sometimes, according to Aaron, missionary cargo like Bibles have been known to get stolen as well.

“Even the Bibles. I found out Bibles are one of the largest black market items in the world. People steal Bibles and sell them,” he said.

He explained that the ministry’s MD 80 aircraft carries about 2,000 pounds of cargo and several Boeing 767s they plan to introduce once they are approved will carry 30,000 tons of cargo.

The plan for Judah1 is to have a fleet of 20 aircraft over the next five years.

“Once we get our certification (in 2019), we have four more MD 80s that are on standby for us as well as two 767s that are on standby,” he said. This will bring Judah 1’s short-term operational fleet of aircraft to seven.

The ministry plans to work with ministries such as Kingdom Living Ministries to plan mission trips to such areas as the unreached mountain villages of Kisumu.

When asked if he has reached out to large ministries like Kenneth Copeland Ministries or Creflo Dollar who have used private jets for their ministries to see if his business would be a competitive option, Aaron said he had not done so but he hopes to cater to similar ministries.

“It’s hopeful that we can help with that because that’s one of the sore spots for a lot of people — the fact that ministers do use corporate aircraft for travel, ” he said.

He did note, however, that he understands that it may sometimes be cheaper for pastors to use private jets and it also saves a lot of time when traveling with teams of more than four or five people.

In a video about his ministry posted on YouTube, Aaron explained how God gave him a vision for the aviation ministry in 1994.

“Judah 1 came about in 1994 when the Lord gave me a vision. In the vision, He showed me airline, aircraft lined up as far as you can see. They were full of food, medical supplies, Bibles, the engines were fired up and they were ready to go. There were people lined up in front of these planes ready to get on them but they wouldn’t get on the planes,” Aaron said.

“And so I asked God why won’t the people get on the planes … and God said ‘they can’t go into the mission field until you get the airplanes. This is what I’m calling you to do. So Judah 1 really came about from the Lord showing me the need for mission aviation. And as we researched and did our due diligence we found out that there was a great need for large commercial aircraft to transport missionary teams into the mission field,” he continued.

After getting his vision in 1994, it was several years later in 2011 that Aaron incorporated Judah 1 and made their first mission trip with a chartered commercial plane in 2013.

Aaron noted that there were about only two or three other mission aviation organizations he was aware of but said they use small aircraft.

“Judah 1 as far as we know is the only mission aviation organization that uses large commercial aircraft to transport complete teams. So that’s how we differ from other aviation organizations,” he said.

“It’s not just about the preaching of the Gospel. We want to see the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit in action.”

– christian post

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