Thursday, December 2, 2010


“He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped and we were healed!” Isaiah 53:5b

Shazia and I were lounging on her queen size bed with her adorable baby smiling and cooing at us. As we celebrate Christmas season, the month of Muharram will begin on Tuesday when Shia Muslims around the world will spend 10 days commemorating Hussein’s suffering and martyrdom. Shazia will spend those days listening to sorrowful poetic recitation performances about Hussein’s death. In the evenings her community will gather together at the Husseini(mosque) to eat special dishes they have prepared. I remember the first Muharram public display of grieving I witnessed in Pakistan shortly after we arrived back in 1978. My husband and I and our two year old daughter were walking towards the bazaar when we suddenly heard a lot of commotion and wailing. We came upon a very new, strange, and frightening scene. A crowd of men were beating themselves with whips. We had never seen anything like that in our lives. I literally felt sick and shocked with no preparation or knowledge beforehand of this religious self-flagellation and wanted to shield our child from the morbid scene.

I asked Shazia, “Does your family beat themselves to the point of bleeding during Muharram in your country?” She said, “All my city does.” “Do they use knives, too, and hit their heads to bleed?” I asked further. “Yes,” she replied with pride, “especially my father.” I inquired why they beat themselves and bleed. “To remember Hussein’s suffering,” Shazia explained. “We have to remember.”

“We remember Isa al Masih’s death, too,” I said. “Every month in church we drink a little bit of red juice to remind us of His death and suffering. He bled to death on the cross. Isa al Masih, before He died, told His followers around the supper table to drink the wine/juice and eat the broken bread to remember His blood He would shed for us and the broken bread would remind us that His body was broken for us on the cross. He tells us to remember His suffering but we don’t beat ourselves because we are thankful and relieved that Isa al Masih took our punishment upon Himself on the cross and we can be spared from going to jahannam(hell).” She looked completely surprised and shocked at this new information.

What a stark difference! Both of us remember our leader’s unjust sufferings and deaths. But as Christians we don’t end with mourning a buried dead human leader. Rather we end with a spirit of complete amazement and gratitude at what Jesus’ suffering and death procured for us. Salvation. Forgiveness of our sins. Victory over Satan and death. Eternal life. Most of all we have a divine Leader whose story did not end with the grave but with resurrection and life. I never want to forget that. I am witnessing Shazia’s diligence in remembering her leader’s suffering and death. I am resolved to be even more diligent in remembering what our Savior went through. Remembering Jesus’ birth, death, suffering – and empty grave - is a very sacred worship experience for me this Christmas.

Dear heavenly Father, I never want to forget what Jesus has done for mankind...for me. Thank you! Amen.