Devotional Words Of Encouragement By Susan Niswonger / last year Share Tweet Pin Share Every year, after Thanksgiving, the controversy begins. Should I say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? Is it Christmas Vacation or Winter Break? Can we sing Silent Night or should we stick with Jingle Bells for the School musical program? Should we chance setting up the Nativity Scene in front of the court house, a Christmas tree, Santa and his sleigh, lights? Law suits are filed and millions spent on ads voicing the minority seasonal opinion. The ads this year declared, “No God; No problem!” and “Yes, Virginia, there is no God.” Why is a Christian holiday such a threat to unbelievers? Most Christians are content to mind their own business as the atheist celebrate winter solstice, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukah and other ethnic groups celebrate their traditions, so why do Atheist/Humanist groups feel the need to take away our religious freedom? I am reminded of the story of Irina Ratushinskaya as told by Chuck Colson. Ten year old Irina Ratushinskaya lived in the Soviet Union city of Odessa. Attendance during atheist instruction time was compulsory, so Irina sat in the classroom watching a rare snowfall. She wanted to be outside enjoying the snow instead of listening to the instructor drone on about the nonexistence of God. The students had been told about a Baptist woman who roasted her child in an oven. Irina knew a Baptist lady who loved and cared for her children. The seventh graders had preformed a play depicting priests as oafs and fools. The Young Pioneers, the teachers, the headmaster, the broadcasters on the radio, the whole country seemed to be against God. It seemed odd that such a furious battle raged against someone they said didn’t exist anyway. Irina thought, “Can’t they tell they are giving themselves away? Adults tell you there are no gremlins or ghosts. They tell you once or twice, and that is it. But with God, they tell you over and over again. So He must exist—and He must be very powerful for them to fear Him so greatly.” With her childlike logic, she prayed, “Okay, God, if you did not exist, we wouldn’t have to listen to this lecture. So it’s Your fault we’re sitting here missing the snow. If You’re so powerful, make it keep snowing!” It snowed for 3 days, Odessa’s largest snowfall in 60 years. School was canceled and Irina enjoyed the snow. The God her teachers denied had made the snow fall from official Communist airspace. Irina began to talk to Him secretly at night asking endless questions. Was he kind, all powerful? The Communist state was powerful, but they were not kind. If He was kind but not all-powerful, how could she depend on Him? At the age of 14, Irina had a pivotal moment in her young life. A classmate threw a chestnut across the room. It crashed into an inkwell, splashing a splatter of ink on the wall. When no one would tell who had caused the mess, each student was interrogated individually. When Irina’s turn came, she began to lie, saying she had been looking in her book bag and hadn’t seen anything. The next student looked the teacher straight in the eye and said, “I’m not going to tell you.” This pierced Irina’s conscience. She thought, “I am becoming what THEY want me to be. I shall never lower myself like that again before anybody. I’ll learn how to behave decently from books, I’ll think a lot, and talk to God more. Then my soul will remain my own. Nobody will be able to manipulate me to suit themselves.” She instinctively knew that she would become a servant to one master or another. Irina began to explore the great Russian books on her parent’s bookshelves. In them she found a reflection of the God whom she knew was kind and all-powerful. The values of good and evil did not change. Pushkin told her the truth lay in Russian Orthodoxy, Tolstoy’s theories left her confused. She had no way to get a Bible and there was nobody trustworthy to ask about Jesus. When Irina was 23, a Jewish friend gave her an 18th century volume of the Scriptures printed in Old Church Slavonic. She spent a month and a half learning the ancient alphabet so she could read the Bible. Excitedly, she discovered a God she had already come to know. At 28 years old, Irina was targeted by the KGB for her writings celebrating Christian faith and human rights. She was arrested and sentenced to 7 years of hard labor and sent to the Soviet Union’s notorious gulag. In prison she refused to rat on fellow prisoners or praise the regime. She continued to serve God and record her writings on tiny bits of paper. Human Rights groups and Christians in the West raised an outcry over her case. In 1986, Irina was released from prison and finally made her way, with her husband to the West and freedom. Irina’s greatest desire was to have children. Because of the torture and deprivation experienced in the Gulag, doctors said a successful pregnancy would be difficult if not impossible. Friends began to pray as the months went by. Finally, in 1992, Irina delivered twin boys, Sergei and Oleg. You see the Christmas holiday is not the real problem, it is the power behind the reason we celebrate the season that is the real threat. We celebrate that the great God of Heaven robed himself in flesh and came to earth in the form of a tiny baby. 2000 years ago this tiny baby was such a threat to a king that thousands of babies were given the death sentence. The story continues because this baby was born for a purpose. He would become the perfect sacrifice to redeem fallen man back to God. He not only took our place in death but sent His Spirit to give us power to conquer our hedonistic nature. So when you hear that another lawsuit against public professions of faith has been filed; if you see another anti-God slogan or witness materialism replacing the Baby in the Manger, take a minute and thank God that you know the truth about a baby that grew up to bear the sins of the whole world on a cross and rose again that His Spirit may live in your heart today.