"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those
with whom He is pleased."
~ Luke 2:14 ESV
Since the angels first proclaimed peace at the promised arrival of Jesus, Christians have embraced that message, knowing the assurance we have through faith in Christ.
Around the world, however, peace between the peoples of the earth does not always exist. And Christians frequently bear the brunt of violence from those who don't understand God's message of love, peace, kindness and goodwill to all. Thousands of innocent Christians have faced threats of violence from militants in Nigeria during the past year, and many have lost their lives as a result. Believers in China endure the hostility of a regime determined to stop their worship of God, and many throughout the world are confronted by neighbours and countrymen who refuse to tolerate the proclamation announced by His heavenly messengers.
As we celebrate Christ's initial coming throughout this Christmas season, we will all experience a measure of separation from friends and loved ones this year. But for the many believers in Eritrea, who have been imprisoned for years because of their faith, it is yet one more day to bear. For Mohammad Reza Omidi and Ebrahim Firouzi, both of whom were forced into exile by Iranian authorities for acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God, they are unable to be with those they love.
Yet, in the midst of the darkness that seems to be encasing our world, the light of God's love and grace still shines. And now and then, a special glimmer of hope is seen by those in difficult circumstances. For Imran Ghafur Masih, Christmas 2020 is especially significant. Acquitted of blasphemy by a court in Pakistan only nine days ago, Imran is now able to celebrate with his family for the first time in over ten years.
Even when Christmas is celebrated quietly behind sealed doors, in a prison cell, in an open-air gathering, or even in a manger, may the warmth of God's loving care faithfully surround all of His people throughout the world. Our prayer is that Christmas 2020 will be a time of special significance to you as well, as you contemplate what it truly means to know Christ as "Emmanuel" --- "God with us."