Recent headlines remind us that the world has not changed much since the first Christmas. It is still overshadowed by darkness. We were all horrified in September when terrorists attacked a middle school in Beslan, Russia, killing more than 300 innocent children and parents. None of us could understand such cold-blooded hatred.
But even though we know this world will always be plagued by darkness, we should not lose hope. We need to keep shining the light of Jesus and praying for God to change evil hearts–all for His glory. Just as He turned Saul the persecutor into Paul the evangelist, His transforming power is at work today.
Remember, just 20 years ago Russia was the object of fear, not of sympathy. Communism then seemed as dangerous as terrorism seems today. The intervention of Christians–including my father’s trips to preach behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s and to Russia itself in the 1980s and 1990s–helped change the world in ways that we could scarcely have imagined. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse have been blessed with the opportunity to share the Gospel with millions of Russians. That truly is an answer to prayer.
This month I am planning to visit Russia to deliver Christmas gifts to children who survived the Beslan tragedy. We hope to bring them a moment of joy, to pray with them and to reassure them that they are not suffering and grieving alone. We know that some of the victims of Beslan had accepted Jesus through evangelistic programs we supported earlier this year. We have been encouraged by testimonies of pastors who lost children but have been strengthened in their ministries. God is working in Russia!
Christmas is about God stepping out of eternity and intervening in history–”God with us” (Matthew 1:23, NKJV). He works in ways that we might not anticipate but that we certainly can recognize. This Christmas, we can pray with hope, trusting that God will give light to those in darkness and peace to those who follow His way.