Awaiting his third Christmas in the isolation of his dark, cold prison cell in Iran, Pastor Saeed Abedini penned a letter to his family and international supporters.
“This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my familyis presently outsideof the country,” he wrote. “These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard first imprisoned the American pastor in the fall of 2012. Abedini was at work building an orphanage in the country.
Informed that he must face criminal charges for his Christian faith, the pastor was harshly interrogated, and his belongings confiscated.
Despite an overwhelming show of international support – with over 610,000 signatures in a petition for his release and a 50,000 letter writing campaign – the American remains imprisoned. White House officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, called for his release. Artists from Toby Mac and Michael W Smith to Relient K and Mercy Me have also raised awareness of the pastor’s plight.
“Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy,” Abedini wrote.
Through his own suffering, Abedini persevered to recognize the true joy of the Christmas season:
These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me. These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? . . . Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today, we, like Him, should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world . . . It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas . . .
Read the entire letter here.
Learn more about Abedini’s story and sign the petition for his release here.