This Advent season, a leading expert on Christian persecution around the world and religious freedom issues weighed in on how to stay rooted in faith and key values — and how to remain focused on the joy that Christmas will bring, no matter the chaos and division that may be swirling through communities, cities, towns and states this fall and winter.
Jeff King notes that “his passion is to share the lessons of spiritual growth derived from the hidden world of the martyrs and the persecuted,” as he says on his website.
King — the president of International Christian Concern (ICC, www.persecution.org), based in Washington, D.C. — is the author of “The Last Words of the Martyrs.”
He told Fox News Digital in emailed comments this week, “As Advent begins, many Christians around the world will be lighting candles beginning the countdown to Christmas. For me, those candles are lit in memory of the great star that first appeared over Israel, 2,000 years ago. It heralded the birth on Earth of the king of heaven, the God-King.”
Added the faith leader, “He was the long-promised Messiah that God said would be ‘Emmanuel’ (the translation being, ‘God with Us’) of Isaiah 7:14.”
Said King as well, “As I survey the world at present, I am reminded that He is the only hope we have for peace. For the agnostic or atheist, this is a silly and vacuous statement — and I judge no one for that viewpoint.”
However, he said, “once your heart has been conquered by the One the star heralded — once He becomes Emmanuel in your own heart — it all becomes clear.”
King went on, “It is only then that you find the most elusive of human emotions — peace, forgiveness and humility.”
And “it is only then that you give up on vengeance — and having been forgiven all, forgive and even love those that sin against you.”
He continued, “And so, I pray that you, too, will see the rise of His star and begin your own journey to find the God-King — so that you can find ‘peace on earth’ in your own heart.”
And he wished people well on this journey.
Another leader of faith shared comments on the theme of hope during the first week of Advent as the faithful prepare for the birth of Christ.
Pastor Jesse Bradley, who runs Grace Community Church outside Seattle, Washington, said, “Hope arrives with humility. A manger is the humblest of settings, with foul smells, after there was no room at the inn.”
“God continually treats us better than we deserve by His grace.”
And “hope arrives as a gift,” he added. “The world was not worthy of the Messiah — and God continually treats us better than we deserve by His grace.”
Also, “hope arrives and exceeds expectations,” he said. “Mary and Joseph were trying to comprehend the miracle and the significance of God’s plan.”
In addition, “hope arrives on time. God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours,” he said. “The birth and return of Jesus carry heavenly timing.”
Finally, said Pastor Bradley, “Hope arrives with promises. Jesus was born of a virgin and in the town of Bethlehem — fulfilling specific prophecies.”
Bradley also said, “The hope of God is more about the inside story than the outer circumstances. The hope of God is more powerful than the fiercest attacks and daunting obstacles.”
He said that “the hope of God brings restoration in families. The hope of God brings communities together in love and service. The hope of God cares for both children and the elderly. And the hope of God is a fire that can’t be extinguished.”
Bradley said that at this time and always, “The hope of God says that we are all equal, all significant — and no one walks alone. The hope of God can raise a nation that is stumbling and help her find her way. The hope of God makes the soul sing. The hope of God welcomes all with hospitality.”