Caesar Augustus’ birthday was honored as the “birthday of the god!” A stone monument (Priene Inscription) was erected 9 yrs before Jesus’ birth celebrating Caesar as “a savior for the world” whose birth was the beginning of “good tidings for all people.”
It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [euangelion] for the world that came by reason of him which Asia resolved in Smyrna.
Sound familiar? Luke, in his gospel concerning Jesus, chose his words in Luke 2 very pointedly.
Civilizations have no problem celebrating Saviors, healers, people willing to die for others. But they trip over Kings who upset the current regime. That’s why it is significant that Luke 2 is all about announcing Jesus as the King. In India, Jesus is welcomed if presented only as a Savior. A Hindu Doctor there once took a ministry leader into his home to show him the cross he had installed on his wall. Trouble was, it was in the middle of many other Hindu idols. His explanation? "Jesus is my Savior. These others are gods for my business, family, health” etc.
In China, the same reality is true. In the US, Christianity is fine as long as it is kept “private” and does not insist on being “public truth.”
But present Jesus as Lord of Life, the One before whom “every knee will bow,” and you’re asking for trouble. That’ll get you mocked here, killed in some places.
Pray for your brothers and sisters in those regions--that as they celebrate Christmas, they will be bold about King Jesus. Pray their faith will not waver despite persecution. As YOU celebrate Christmas, remember: your King has come to you! Rejoice!