Christmas, 1975. Physically,I was 21 years old; spiritually, a mere baby six months of age. Christmas was different that year. The usual lights and trees and parties and presents dominated the landscape, just as they always had—but Christmas was a different sensation for me in 1975. I had heard “the Christmas story” hundreds of times, if once. I heard it with my ears, and with a spare brain cell or two, but for the first time in my life, I was able to hear the Christmas story with my whole heart.
The Bible I had back then is worn, tattered and cherished, and now occupies a place of honor on my office bookshelves. The pages were still crisp and fresh when I first read the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. There wasn’t anything there that I hadn’t heard before, even read before, but I saw those words through new spiritual eyes. The words leaped from the pages and wrapped around my heart in ways I had never before experienced.
I started following those side-column references, finding prophecy after prophecy fulfilled in the birth of Christ. I words of the Angels:
“good news of great joy, for all of the people.”
came to life in my soul, an announcement made not to the wealthy elite, but to common shepherds, the lowest working class of that day’s society. The angels’ message brought assurance that this Savior had come for all mankind, not just an elite few.
I could smell the pungent sheep on that hillside when the Angels proclaimed:
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
I experienced the overwhelming joy of tha shepherds as the Angel chorus proclaimed the birth of the eternal King and Messiah. I felt the warm inner glow that accompanies the certainty that the child born in Bethlehem came for me.
Having been taught to underline and highlight my Bible, I underlined and highlighted, and underlined and highlighted, and underlined and highlighted some more, until page 88 in my New Testament looked like the victim of a blue highlighter gone mad. As I contemplated my choice of gifts for those closest to me, I could think of no greater gift than to share the gift of this wonderful knowledge of Christ—not a plaster baby in a make-believe feedbox, but a real, living Lord and King whose birth we celebrate.
Non-linear man that I am, I proceeded to photocopy page 88 in my new testament — complete with notes and highlights — and mail that page to as many of my old friends as I could think of, with a simple, hand-written wish that they, too, would come to know Christ and understand the true Joy of Christmas.
Most of them thought I was nuts. Some of them still do. I didn’t care what they thought of me. I knew the reality of God, and the Joy of Christmas that is truly
“Joy unspeakable and full of Glory” (1 Peter 1:8)
I don’t recall one single material gift I received that Christmas. I can’t remember any of the “special events,” or the special Christmas music, or any of that sort of stuff. What I recall is the simple wonder of a child, rediscovering the true Spirit of Christmas—that unlike the “Christmas spirit” that is bought and sold in the secular celebration, lives on well past the end of December. That Spirit still lives in me today, over thirty years later.
Does He live in you?