Every year at Christmas time, I look forward to what Elizabeth Kendal is going to write for the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin of the World Evangelical Alliance (of which The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is an associate member). My anticipation was rewarded with another insightful article that, once again, makes me say to myself, "Why didn't I think of that!" Here is Elizabeth's offering for Christmas 2008. I hope you find it as insightful as I did.
CHRISTMAS: FAITH, HOPE AND THE CHRIST-CHILD
While the incarnation and the cross are stumbling blocks and folly to many, to those with faith they confirm some of God's great truths:
1. God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8,9).
2. Something awesome and magnificent, like the Kingdom of God, can emanate from something small and insignificant, like a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31,32).
3. God chooses what is foolish, weak and despised in the world to shame that which is considered wise, strong and lofty, so that the one who boasts should boast only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
These are very important truths for anyone at any time. But to a humble believer facing overwhelming odds, they can be a lifeline to hope.
The decline of Islam from the late 17th Century until the 1970s, along with the rise of the 'Christian' West through the reformation, renaissance, industrial revolution and two world wars, followed by the failure of Communism in the 1980s, resulted in what many described as a 'new world order'. For a short stretch of time approximately from 1985 to 2005 global religious liberty and security generally improved despite escalating Islamic terrorism and the persistence of civil wars and dictatorships. Well those days have most certainly ended now, having amounted to little more than a small blip on the timeline of history. Reformed and revived, intolerant and imperialistic Islam is back and the West's (primarily America's) economic leverage, which has for a decade now been used to promote and even advance religious liberty around the world, has evaporated. Sweet dreams of worldwide harmonious interaction and co-operation are being replaced with nightmares of violent and repressive ethnic and religious nationalism, globalised terror, imperialistic jihad, insecurity, poverty, uncertainty and injustice with impunity.
But those with faith are not without hope. Salvation did not come by means of a muscle-bound, Greek-style, wresting warrior-god. Our deliverer did not arrive in a majestic Roman chariot with legions on fine horses behind him. Satan was not defeated by physical or military might. God, in all his perfection and wisdom, secured our salvation and revealed his glory to the heavens and the earth through Jesus Christ: a baby in a manger in a stable; a Jewish carpenter in Roman-occupied Judea; a homeless, wandering preacher; a naked, battered and bloodied crucified man. It is no wonder that the gospel has been described as a 'great mystery'. And in these dark days, we should know that more often than not, God's ongoing work of sanctification is equally mysterious.
This Christmas, as we remember and celebrate the Christ-child, let us pray that all Christians everywhere may be inspired and filled with hope. May we all -- regardless of our circumstances -- look to, trust in, and cling to God, whose ways are mysterious, hidden and higher than ours.
-- Elizabeth Kendal