It didn't take long. Shortly after the angels trumpeted the good news of peace to all men, violence erupted. The news of the birth of a king and a savior rattled the power structures of the day, and another Middle Eastern potentate starting slaughtering his own citizens. What was their crime? Being less than two years old and living in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

It has always been a volatile part of the world. In the last 2000 years there have been many Herods in the Middle East who who have re-enacted his rage in their efforts to retain power in the face of the latest threat. And the prospect of the king and savior called Jesus growing in influence continues to provoke rage.

According to The Daily Telegraph, a recent report by the think-tank Civitas says that "The 'lion's share' of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith". It estimates that between half and two-thirds of Christians have left the middle-eastern region or been killed in the past century. It claims that "There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands." Read more....

The inhabitants of Bethlehem could have been excused for doubting that the baby born in their midst was the focus of centuries of hope and anticipation, with Micah's prophecy ringing in their ears. But their doubts were unfounded; and our fears of the demise of the victory of the new-born king are just as unnecessary. God clearly planned a long, slow and mysterious journey toward the fulfillment of the hopes of peace on earth - this must be one conclusion we draw from his strange strategy of a birth of a baby in a barn in the back of beyond.

But it was of this child that Isaiah had spoken, declaring that on his tiny, but slowly growing, shoulders the true government would rest - a government that would never stop growing when his human shoulders were fully formed because it was backed by the greatest power in the universe: the zeal of the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 9:6,7).

For now, Rachel continues to weep for her children in those 'biblical heartlands'. For now, we weep too. But there will be joy in the morning. Despite the best attempts of men to stamp out the growing kingdom in many parts of the world, where Civitas estimates 200 million Christians are socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs", that peace will fill the globe with peace on earth. And the heavens will ring: "Glory to God in the highest!"

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