EBF Christmas Message
EBF Christmas Message
In the Bible the land of Egypt is a powerful symbol of the liberation of God’s people from slavery and the journey to the promised land, in what we call the Exodus. Egypt also has its place in the Christmas story. To escape the murderous intent of Herod, the family of Jesus fled to Egypt where according to tradition, he may have spent his first month and even years. Egypt’s role in the story of God’s people is therefore both one, then is a place of both freedom from oppression and a place of refuge from persecution.
Last month the EBF President, Jenni Entrican and myself visited Egypt and the teeming city of Cairo which, with a population of 22 million people, is the third largest city on earth. We were there to be with Egypt’s Protestants who were remembering the Protestant Reformation. With other Protestant leaders from Europe and the Middle East we visited the Coptic Pope Tawadros II, and also the government minister for Religious Affairs. It was a privilege for Jenni and myself, along with the BWA President Paul Msiza, to be part of a smaller group that had a two hour meeting with the Egyptian Head of State, President Sisi. He shared his own conviction that Egypt should continue to be a place of ‘refuge’ for people of all faiths and none and that all should enjoy what he called ‘equal citizenship’. It was just a week later when that conviction, that is so close to our Baptist understanding of religious freedom for all, was threatened by the terrible terrorist attack on the mosque in Sinai which killed so many people.
As well as being with other Protestant leaders, we visited some of the churches of the Egyptian Baptist Convention. In the midst of poverty and many other challenges our churches in Egypt are growing and men and women are discovering the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. In a community that exists to sort out some of the garbage of the city we found a new Baptist church building nearing completion; a place of worship, a centre for medical care, a programme for adult literacy and a pre-school for young children. The liberating power of God is once more being seen as Jesus is ‘born' in the hearts and lives of the people who live there.
I find such encounters truly inspirational for my own life and ministry. They illustrate for me the true meaning of Christmas - IMMANUEL - God with us, God with his people wherever they are in the world, in Christ to save and set free, now and always.
On behalf of the EBF Team and staff I wish all our members Unions and Conventions and their churches the joy of Christ’s coming this Christmas time, and pray for the assurance of God’s leading for the New Year that will be 2018.
Photo: Pastor and Church in the ‘Garbage Town’ on the edge of Cairo, Egypt