‘Tis the season in December 2018, where Satanists have erected a diabolic display alongside a Nativity set in the Illinois Statehouse. At a middle school in Midlothian, Virginia, some members of the school choir refused to sing a Christmas song that mentioned Jesus, so now any Christmas song that mentions Jesus is prohibited. A school principal in Nebraska banned candy canes because it’s “shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus.”

Forgotten is the fact that the white of the cane represents the purity and resurrection of Jesus and the red stripes are for His blood shed on the cross. The peppermint flavor denotes the hyssop plant that was used for purifying. If the principal had connected the grand significance of the candy cane other than the ‘J’ for Jesus, he may have had a stroke.

These are just three examples of what is transpiring across our fruited plain in anticipation of Christmas 2018.

American churches are not yet being closed by the government, but Chinese churches are as China continues to wage war, not just on Christmas, but Christianity.

Since the communist takeover in 1949, China has resisted all religion. When Christian missionaries were exiled after World War II, there were less than 3 million Christians in the Middle Kingdom. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, today there are 67 million. Other estimates are even higher. Whatever the true number is, they nearly equal membership within the Communist Party.

The atheistic Communist Party prefers no competition and prefers to control all religious belief.

Christianity Today reports that under President Xi Jinping, China has been tightening its hold on Christians by forcing churches to be “Chinese” and submit to the authority of the Communist Party.

Chinese authorities have been attacking the underground Catholic Church by burning Bibles, forcing churches to remove crosses and icons, two Marian shrines have been destroyed and faithful clergy members have been arrested. People who insist on going to church must attend those sanctioned by the government.

The genuine Catholic Church, and its Rome appointed bishops, is the authentic Catholic Church, but that church has been forced underground. The government’s version of the Catholic Church is the schismatic Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Not surprisingly, Pope Francis has agreed to recognize seven bishops of the communist association.

A deal with godless communists?

It’s a good thing Pope Francis wasn’t around during Tours, Lepanto or the French Revolution.

Those who fail to submit to Communist government’s church mandates are being imprisoned and their churches closed. Serving persecuted Christians worldwide is Open Doors USA and its site reported last week, “About 100 worshippers at an unofficial church in southwestern China were snatched from their homes or from the streets,” as part of a larger coordinated campaign against Chinese “house churches.”

Three years ago, communists coined the word “sinicization” to force pastors to fuse the faith with communist ideology. For it is the government that controls churches’ staff, publications and finances, and has usurped Holy Scripture with a sinicized: “Chinese Christian Bible.”

Writing in The Atlantic this month, Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, warned: “Watching a major world faith come to an agreement with an authoritarian government that’s notorious for repressing religious freedom and to effectively cede some authority to that government sets a very worrying precedent. The pope has effectively given Xi Jinping a stamp of approval when the latter’s hostility to religious freedom couldn’t be clearer.”

In the intrepid spirit of the Apostles, nearly 250 Chinese pastors publicly signed a joint statement opposing the government declaring: “Jesus is Lord of all, offering eternal life to anyone who will repent and believe in Him.” They courageously ended their statement with these sobering words, “For the sake of the Gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses — even the loss of our freedom and our lives.”

For faithful Chinese, the People’s Republic of China is a horror show teeming with communist zombies and saintly martyrs.

Is it any wonder that the church in China continues to grow, while the church in the U.S. withers on the vine?

What the Chinese understand, that perhaps Americans don’t anymore, is that Christmas isn’t a day, but a season and most of all — hope.

Merry Christmas.

(Maresca, a local freelance writer, composes “Talking Points” for each Sunday edition.)

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