The birth of Jesus was not a sweet, greeting-card moment.
Of all the wondrous things that happened when Jesus was born, my
favorite involves the mysterious Magi from the east. Scholars still
aren’t sure who these men were. It is assumed they were priests or
gurus who lived in what is now Iran, Saudi Arabia or northern Iraq.
Most of what we assume about the Magi is based on folklore. We don’t
really know if they rode camels, wore crowns or traveled over “moor and
mountain,” as the old hymn says, to find the manger. What we do know
from the Bible is that they were gentiles who, by a supernatural
leading from God, desperately searched for Jesus because they believed
He was the Savior of the world.
The star that led the wise men to Bethlehem is also a mystery. Was
it an angelic light? A comet? An alignment of Jupiter and Saturn?
Whatever it was, God used it to direct these ancient astronomers. They
knelt before a baby and laid costly gifts at His feet-as a prophetic
sign that “the nomads of the desert” (see Ps. 72:9, NASB) would one day
bow down before the King of Kings.
What most excites me about this story is that it is being repeated in the Middle East today.
When I was in Egypt three years ago, I talked to a pastor who is
involved in extensive outreach to Muslims. He told me that during one
visit to a city in southern Egypt, he talked to dozens of Muslims who
had dreamed about Jesus. These people ended up converting to faith in
“All day we met people who were having dreams of Jesus,” the pastor
told me. “God is visiting Muslims in a supernatural way. It is a
phenomenon that is sweeping the region.”
When I shared this news with an audience in Wales in October, an
Iranian student came to me after the meeting and said she had been
converted to Christ from Islam after a dream in which she saw Jesus
standing in front of her. She was living in Iran at the time.
“I knew Jesus was holy and that I could not approach Him, but then I
realized that He made a way for me to know Him,” this young woman told
me. After the dream, she knew what she had seen on a Christian
television program was true and she embraced the gospel. Today she is
in training for ministry.
Despite the intense persecution believers face in the Middle East, a
huge underground church is thriving there today. People are hearing the
gospel through the Internet and watching bootleg copies of Christian
films. They are seeing visions and experiencing miraculous healings as
the Lord confirms His Word.
The same Holy Spirit who warned the Magi in a dream to avoid King
Herod’s treachery is now drawing Muslims to the feet of the Messiah.
(You can read some of their stories on page 38.)
These days it may seem that Muslims are becoming a dominant
religious force. In the United Kingdom there are now more Muslims
practicing their religion than Anglicans. At least 1,700 mosques
operate in that country, and some of them are housed in buildings that
once were churches.
Many British people are wringing their hands over the planned Abbey
Mills mosque to be constructed near the site of the 2012 Olympics in
London. With room for 12,000 worshipers, it will be the largest
religious building in Europe-four times the size of England’s biggest
cathedral. What worries locals is that the mosque is linked to Tablighi
Jamaat, a radical Islamist movement with suspected ties to terrorism.
Is this what the future holds for us? Will mosques soon dominate the
skylines of our cities as our increasingly secular culture rejects
biblical morality and takes away our religious freedoms?
Let’s take comfort from the Christmas story. The birth of Jesus was
not a sweet, greeting-card moment. It was scary. It involved tyranny,
genocide and refugees. But in the end, astounding and surprising
miracles overshadowed all the danger.
As we face our fears in a troubling time, let’s remember that the
baby who escaped Herod’s sword was later crowned King of all nations.
The God who drew the Magi to Bethlehem will soon pour out His Spirit in
Mecca, Tehran, Baghdad, Kabul and the entire Islamic world. My dream is
that I will live to see it.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. You can read his previous online columns, and comments from readers by clicking here.