Christmas in the MER
A Christmas message from our National Director, Grant Dibden, from the Middle East Region (MER).
10 000 Afghanistan Army soldiers are killed each year that we know of. There’s probably more, and about half that number of civilians. And this doesn’t include the enemy. That was what the Australian Commander in Afghanistan shared in Kabul last week when I was visiting the Australian troops stationed there. I was struck by how insecure it was in the country with large swathes “no go” areas.
Next, I visited our troops in Iraq. It was a similar story of instability and constant war. If anything, it was more dangerous for me there than in Afghanistan.
How can the people of Afghanistan and Iraq live a life of peace? When will they be able to live a life without the threat of bombs blowing them up or people shooting them on the way to school or at the shops? How do you end the hatred and violence? What hope do they have?
As Christmas approaches, I’m struck by two verses that are often highlighted at Christmas, verses that give hope to us all, even in this dark part of the world:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
The hope for peace isn’t in education, or democracy, or a thriving economy or in the UN, but in a child. To the world, this is foolishness. Yet in God’s economy, this child is His promised fulfillment of the deepest needs of every man, woman and child.
This child is the Mighty God; the One invested with all power to break the vice of the human condition and restore us to God, after whose image we were first created. He stood where humankind fell and the veil of death could not hold Him.
He is the Prince of Peace; peace with God and therefore true rest for the soul. The One who brings peace now, and a foretaste of peace to come.
The foundation of any earthly peace is a restored relationship of peace with God himself, who is the giver of all good things. That is what the Lord Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, when he endured God’s wrath on our behalf and exhausted it, reconciling our broken relationship with God and putting us ‘in the right’ with God (He ‘justified’ us).
The person who trusts Jesus to justify them before God is the person ‘on whom His [God’s] favour rests,’ as the angels sang. Indeed, Romans 5:1 tells us: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This peace with God is full and generous and amazingly good. There is no darkness in it! It transforms a person’s heart and transformed hearts are the only real, deep, lasting way for there to be enduring peace on earth.
May the great God of peace be known to you this Christmas through the riches of the blessings He has given us in Christ.