We light the candle, the first candle of advent. It's flame flickers representing 'Expectation and Hope'. It's light fills us with the anticipation of the coming Messiah. As followers of Christ we hope for Christ's return.
"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming...For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." Matthew 24:42,44 NASV
All through time people have held hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance. God hears His people everywhere. His son will come again.
Hope. The candle flickers. Its message powerful.
I can't get her face out of my mind. A young Indonesian face, perhaps beautiful at one time. Now violated. Scars etched with brutality. She paid a cost for her faith in a country where no freedom of religion exists. As she travelled the dusty road, she saw the military police come with other Islamists. They were bearing down on the group she was with. She cried out in anguish and fright, "Oh my God, Help me!"
A man put a gun in her mouth and snarled, "Let's see how your God will help you now." He pulled the trigger. Her face, though now healed, tells the story.
She had been persecuted for her faith.
With the help of an interpreter, she told her story. There were other stories, in other countries-Algeria, Somalia, China, Turkey, Iraq. All of them equally brutal.
And yet the Christian church grows in these dry and thirsty lands. Our God hears the cry of His people.
If we are followers of Christ, these suffering believers are our brothers and sisters. The price of their faith is paid in blood spilt.
I hold in my hand a brochure from the mission, "International Christian Concern" This organization is dedicated to serving and building the worldwide persecuted Christian Church.
In white letters, on a black background, the glossy leaflet invites us to "Pray for the persecuted..." There is a photo of a dandelion and on the bottom, a caption reads, "...in the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the church."
Inside I read, "Christ promised that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But these believers are choosing to pay the price and the church is multiplying. As persecution mounts against the church, Christians are growing deep roots, dying to themselves, and producing seeds as numerous and irrepressible as dandelions."
I sit in this corner, in this small space and tap away about my faith. What do I know of persecution? How has my faith been tested in comparison to these, my brothers and sisters?
Oh, He is worthy. That's not the question.
How would I stand, if my faith were tested like my brothers and sisters? How would I fare in a land where no democracy exists and freedom is a hope for another day?
Their faith and endurance is a testimony and example for you and I in this part of the globe.
We can pray for their strength, that He would grant them courage, that they would grow deeper roots, that His grace would sustain them, that they could forgive their persecuters, that stable governments would be wrought, that freedom of religion would come. We hope...
We hope for peace on this earth. The world is not fully redeemed. So again, with expectation and hope, we await God's new work in history. God will respond to the cries of His children.