I find it fascinating that so often when people talk about coming to faith, they use the expression about a ‘leap into the dark’. But scripture obviously never uses such a phrase. Scripture always talks about faith coming to trust in Christ as a step into the light. As a matter of fact, that is why Jesus came — to be the light of the world. In other words, he came to show us the world we live in, who we really are, and how to be that light through Him.
What’s even more incredible is that, in John 3, we read that the reason we don’t step into the light is not that we don’t see the light, rather the problem is that we do see the light but actually we prefer to remain in darkness. It’s this theme of darkness and light that we often hear so much about during this Christmas time.
Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking in Egypt when a mosque was brutally attacked and hundreds of people were killed. It was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had of having to speak that morning. It was a struggle the whole message. I would love to say that somehow I rallied in the end, but I think the simple truth is that it was hard to speak and it was hard to hear. Maybe what was going on not that far away explains why the spiritual atmosphere felt so difficult — an incredible darkness being given a physical expression which resulted in many people being lost. But it is in such a world that Jesus Christ came. He came into a world to bring light and hope and new birth. We will be singing about it. We will be celebrating it. We will be marking its significance by the giving of gifts. And it is because of this that we now find so much hope.
Earlier this week, I was listening to an exposition from one of our team, Sam Allberry. He made the comment that we are very happy to be kind when it doesn’t cost us anything. And that is why when we read passages such as Titus 3, we are reminded that the kindness of God is something very different. In Titus 3 it says, ‘but when the kindness and the love of our God and Saviour appeared towards men, it was not because of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy and because of the renewing of the Holy Spirit. He has poured all of this out abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour and we have now been justified by grace and have become his heirs according to the hope of eternal life’.
We are living in a world that desperately needs that hope. And that’s one of the reasons why we are rejoicing this Christmas, even amidst the sorrow and sadness. Being part of a team and to have the privilege of serving in a team which sees so many people cross over that boundary from darkness into light — from a state of lacking hope or having no hope, to now finding an eternal hope that that will never perish, spoil or fade — is one of the greatest privileges we get to enjoy.
The team has been growing rapidly over the last few months and years, with growth right across the region — whether it is in the Middle East, Africa or Europe. But it is not simply the growth of the team that we are excited about. it is about the increasing opportunity and the sheer numbers of people that have been released into ministry, because of the work of the OCCA, because of the leadership of this team so ably lead in this region by Amy Or-Ewing, that we see now many other voices going out to be witnesses to the hope and light that Jesus Christ himself brought.
Whatever you may be facing this Christmas, whether it feels like an utterly difficult and desperate time of year or whether you are looking forward to it with great expectation and anticipation, our hope is that the light that has come into the world will be at the centre of everything that you do and think about as we celebrate Christmas.
We want to thank you for your support and for your prayers. We regularly pray for you who support us and we are very grateful for the prayers that you as supporters extend towards us.
Our prayer is that, as we go into next year, it may be more fruitful than the year before, that we may continue to be faithful in our commitment to Him and that we will faithfully proclaim the wonderful Christmas message we have been given.
May God bless you as you celebrate your Christmas this year.