For many, Christmas is the time to wrap green and red packages, decorate trees with tinsel and silver bells—a time to go from door to door singing carols and perhaps get invited in for hot chocolate or spiced apple cider. For university students, it is that brief time for relief when one semester’s finals are over, and it’s not quite time to begin the whole cycle over again. For our friends in South Africa and Australia, this is summer. Many go on holidays to visit family, but there’s nothing of the winter wonderland” that so many people in the United States associate with Christmas.
For me, the meaning of Christmas is summed up in one word: Incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God, in His compassion, gave Himself to us in this totally miraculous way. The most generous gift in the universe was a baby who lay wrapped in a manger. What better way to celebrate this gift than to share it with others?
Christmas Eve 1995 I was doing just that—making phone calls, trying to ensure that those Jewish people who seemed close to deciding for Jesus would have an opportunity to celebrate Christ’s Advent. I contacted Nathan and his wife to ask if they had made a decision for Jesus yet.
I’d been meeting with them for a couple of months. It began when a Christian friend invited Nathan to hear me speak at a local church. I met with him afterward, and he expressed interest in what he had heard that day. We made an appointment, and I visited him the following week. We had a couple more appointments and spoke about God’s love and eternal life, and how it is found only in the Savior, Yeshua. Nathan seemed genuinely open to the things of God, as did his wife Alexandra, but neither was ready to make a decision to accept Jesus as their Savior just yet.
So when I spoke to them on Christmas Eve, they told me that they were still struggling with the issue of Jesus. But, Nathan said, he thought perhaps they might be ready. I invited myself over to their house in suburban Virginia, and within minutes the three of us were holding hands and praying for Jesus to come and take up residence in their hearts. Truly the words of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” were fulfilled that night as Nathan and Alexandra experienced God’s presence.
What a Christmas present that was—both to them and to me. Regardless of the actual day or month it happened, we rejoice to think of what it must have been like for the angels, the shepherds, the wise men to realize that “unto us this day is born in the city of David a Savior, even Christ the Lord.” Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.
Bob also holds the portfolio for our outreach in Australia.