I become a Christian in March of 1967. Christmas of 1967 was my first Christmas knowing Jesus Christ. Just a few weeks ago, I realized I have spent 51 Christmases with Jesus. One memorable Christmas was 1975. My father suffered two heart attacks in November. The resulting damage was such, that he could never return to work. At one point it was probable I would quit high school and get a job to replace my dad’s lack of income. Christmas of 1975 contained a deeper gratitude that my dad was still with us and we were weathering a financial crisis. I remember as a junior in high school thanking God we could be around a Christmas tree together with only a few inconsequential gifts. Through 51 Christmases, somehow Jesus graced me to find Holy moments, maybe Kairos moments, to know His closeness. Sometimes it was sitting alone in a church sanctuary or watching my children on Christmas morning or walking home after the second Christmas Eve service, a bit exhausted, but knowing Christ’s closeness. And sometimes it was watching my children collect gifts and food for others and leave the parsonage to give them away. I remember my son taking all the extra money he had made selling Christmas trees and buying gifts for a newly arrived family from Mexico, who had become part of our church. I remember gratitude to God that my son could give as others had given to my family when I, like him, was a junior in high school.
One memorable Holy Spirit moment during a Christmas season, was my reading of Matthew 3 during my morning devotions. The verse that settled in me was, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” Before noontime, I met a woman with two little boys, with very little English, anxiously finding vegetables in the church’s food pantry. As we struggled to communicate, I realized how God had prepared me for the day, for I was helping a Coptic Egyptian woman and her two sons. That morning grew into a long friendship with Christians who knew firsthand what it is to be beaten for Christ. There were so many other moments: the family who was living in their car, coming into the sanctuary to see the lights and creche, and leaving with a couple of food vouchers, and my opportunity to answer their children’s questions about who Jesus is. The late call on Christmas night from a lonely soul fearing they might lose their sobriety before morning. The adrift clerk from Walmart sitting with us for Christmas dinner, because we had become his family. If the reckless love of God can break into time and history as a child born of a virgin, why should I still be surprised that God piles up holy and close moments over 51 Christmases?
I hesitate to write something trite, but I will anyway. I don’t know how people navigate life without knowing Jesus. I simply don’t know who I would be, or who I would have become, had I not prayed at a parsonage kitchen table inviting Jesus into my heart. If I had never received the Holy Spirit to form, comfort, direct, correct, assure and heal, who would I be now after 51 Christmases? Would I be hollow and empty, and what would I have filled the hollowness with? Money, academics, hobbies, or worse - substances? Mere delusions?
But that is not how it all worked out. Grace upon grace upon grace. 51 Christmases. Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth, goodwill to all, for born to you this day in the city of David is a Savior who is Christ the Lord. I am still lost for words that the child in Bethlehem as the incarnate resurrected Christ could meet me at a kitchen table in 1967. 51 Christmases. Still so Holy, in stillness I can’t hold back from kneeling in the presence of my Lord.
May the presence of Christ rest on you all.
In the name of the Child, the Lamb, and our coming King.
Read what's happening all around the Region!