Christmas 2008: Faith, Hope and the Christ-child

General December 22, 2008
 Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 510 | Mon 22 Dec 2008 

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

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RLP 511 will be sent on 7 January 2009

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.