Christmas is costly.
There’s the long list of presents to buy, the card-writing to cram into your packed schedule, the family politics to contend with, and the Christmas lunch to invest your time, sweat (hopefully not) and tears in. Both financially and emotionally it can be a costly - as well as a truly joyful - time of year.
Christians in Iran also know there could be a high cost to celebrating Christmas. They love to honour the birth of Christ together, just as Christians do the world over. But they risk paying a very different price than we do.
Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence deliberately intensifies its persecution in the festive period. Last year 24 arrests of Christians were reported during the Christmas period. Christmas 2011 saw an established Assemblies of God Church raided. Even the terrified Sunday School children endured harsh interrogation. In 2010 the largest known number of arrests: over 70 house church leaders were arrested in a wave of raids on private homes.
Every believer in Iran will be aware that this year it could be them. It could be them that has their Christmas service or party interrupted by Intelligence agents. It could be them that spends Christmas in solitary confinement, separated from their family, and subjected to weeks or months of interrogation.
As we each worry about how much Christmas might cost us this year, may we remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran - and in other countries around the world - where the cost of celebrating the birth of our Lord could be so much dearer.