I was reading our Missionary Dave Barba’s column this month on his website. It was entitled “My Favorite Christmas Gift.” I’ve reprinted it below. I hope it challenges you as much as it challenged me.
The month was December, but I don’t know the exact year–sometime in the early 90s. Our family was traveling in full-time evangelism, living in our fifth-wheel trailer. At the end of each year of vigorous travel, we’d come to our beloved holiday getaway, our A-frame cottage in the Tennessee mountains.
That December, I was frustrated. Though we had had a good year, with pastors encouraged and folks trusting Christ, I felt unfulfilled, restless, and guilty. After a bit of introspection and soul-searching, I realized that I was suffering from the “Here Comes Santa Claus There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays I’m Dreaming of What I Hope You Will Give Me for Christmas” syndrome. I had been thinking, “Come on, Lord, give me a break! I have worked hard all year. I deserve some vacation time to just think about myself.” Pure selfishness.
I had been conditioned from childhood to turn my thoughts to myself every December. The holiday month brought with it thehappy thoughts that since school would be out, I could sleep late. I could eat even more chocolate than usual. December was a month of indulgence and of dreaming about presents under the tree and up in the attic. My selfish spirit was nobody else’s fault. It probably wasn’t even a Satanic conspiracy. Maybe it was just a result of the American Myth of Materialism that says, “The more stuff you get, the happier you will be”. Pure humbug..
The Lord worked in my heart, and I wanted to change. What could I do to solve my problem? I was not scheduled to preach anywhere for about a month. The small church we attended did not partcipate in nursing home services, Christmas baskets, or Christmas Caroling Cookie/Gospel Tract Distribution. I decided, in keeping with my childhood conditioning, to ask for a gift. I asked God for a special Christmas gift–one I have asked for every December since.
I asked Him to give me a soul. I prayed that he would let me win one soul to Christ before Christmas. It would be His gift to me, and my gift to Him. It would require no batteries. It would not depreciate in value. It would not be an obligatory present like humans often purchase for loved ones to prove that we love them. It would not rust, break down, wear out, or have potential to lead me into temptation of any kind.
I knew I might not get what I asked for. But I knew my request would cause me to be more soul-conscious during the self-centered holidays. It would remind me to take gospel tracts when I went shopping and move me to create conversations with strangers that might lead to sharing the real meaning of Christmas. And it would give me courage to show love to my unsaved relatives by telling them once more how to get to heaven.
God gave me my gift that December, and many Decembers since. One year it was the neighbor who lived next door to our mountain cottage. Another year it was the man who installed the new Christmas-present carpet in that cottage. Then there was the man in the Indiana campground who lent me his boat and listened as I shared the story of the Man in a boat who stilled the storm with a word.
This year, God delivered the gift on Thursday, December 7. My gift was named Claudia. She, her husband Richard, and their two daughters had recently moved from Miami and had been attending church. Two weeks earlier, I had led Richard to Christ. Claudia was not ready to trust Him. She explained, “I was raised by a physicist who constantly questioned the authority of the Bible. I am conditioned to doubt what it says.”
After Richard received Christ, my wife and I began taking them through our new believers’ discipleship course. Unsaved Claudia faithfully filled out the lessons each week and listened as I taught at their dining room table. It was amazing to see how all of her sincere questions were answered by the Bible verses included in the lessons!
At the end of lesson 2, Claudia bowed her head and tearfully received Jesus as Savior. Richard, Claudia, and their children are now active in church and growing in Christ. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
Perhaps you would like join me in my annual Christmas tradition. Take a step toward forgetting self and enjoying the true meaning of Christmas. Ask God to give you the Christmas gift of one soul that you personally win to Christ. It will be the gift that keeps on giving, forever.
Dave Barba is a missionary to church planters. You may view more information on his ministry at www.ipresson.com