We are now only a little over a week away from Christmas, and all the anticipation for it is building.
Just a casual tour in my community shows that a lot of folks are really caught up in the holiday.
I can't remember when I have seen so many homes decorated with outdoor lights. Some of the homes are quite beautiful and the owners should be commended for dedicating so much time to recognize the holiday's importance.
And, of course, about every business a person visits right now is buzzing with activity as people try to pick out that perfect gift for their loved ones.
Even though Christmas has become ridiculously over-commercialized, it is always heart warming to see the lengths some people will go to show folks that they love them.
Though many people look at Christmas from a secular viewpoint, it is important to remember that people of faith look at this day as something much more than an excuse to exchange gifts.
Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on this holiday, and sometimes this can get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season.
From a spiritual point of view, Christians have it really good in America. Governmental repression really isn't a factor when it comes to a Christian's decision to go to church. All he has to do is get out of bed and go.
However, this fundamental freedom that we all enjoy is often taken for granted. I know I take it for granted, and many times, I am simply too lazy to take advantage of the right we have to publicly worship.
A holiday like Christmas certainly helps a person's spiritual mindset.
Wars have been fought to preserve this fundamental right. Yet, it is easy to become passive when it comes to this. Religious freedom is easy to take for granted because we have so much of it.
However, there are folks all around the world who do not have this right. For many Christians worldwide, their observance of this holiday will be nothing like it will be here.
For some of them, they will be risking their lives by publicly celebrating the birth of Jesus.
For example, consider the plight of Christians in Iraq.
According to the web site Persecution.org, Iraqi Christians "are being hunted, murdered, and forced to flee -- persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq’s religious civil war."
Christians have been in what is now known as Iraq since the time of Jesus, but times are really tough for them now.
The CBS News’ program 60 Minutes recently reported on the situation there.
Correspondent Scott Pelley gained access to a secret worship service and interviewed an Anglican chaplain who serves the church.
According to Pelley, the room was filled with women and children, but there were no men. The chaplain said there were no men because they had been killed or kidnapped.
He said that all the original leadership in that church had been taken and killed.
To illustrate how fearful Christians are there, the 60 Minutes report stated that most churches there do not want protection from U.S. forces.
They fear that if the military openly protects them somebody will covertly infiltrate their congregations and murder everybody. Therefore, they prefer to remain underground.
Think about that. The people there are so afraid of being butchered that they are afraid to ask for protection.
I'll go out on a limb and say that most of you reading this have never faced obstacles so threatening when it comes to how you worship. Yet, these people continue to push forward despite the overwhelming odds.
There are hundreds of other examples that demonstrate the struggles many face spiritually.
As we approach Christmas, we need to remember that the rights we enjoy aren’t available to many people around the world.
Folks like the Iraqi Christians should be an inspiration to all Christians.
They should also force us to analyze our own spiritual commitment.
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty uncomfortable right now.