Why were the tears suddenly filling my eyes until they began to stream down my cheeks? Just a few moments earlier, my hands were lifted to heaven in worshipful praise. I had noticed Betty’s hands also lifted, along with many others, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter Rhonda with hands lifted high, tears filling her eyes, as she, too, praised our Savior. But now my head was nearly in my lap, and I was weeping.
We had been invited to simply gather with friends for a Christmas fellowship, and some of our family—including four grandchildren—also attended. We were blessed by two gifted musicians, Tim Sheppard and Brent Lamb, who had been asked to lead Christmas songs, worship and praise. I was moved from previous times of exultation to complete brokenness over the simple phrase from Away in a Manger, “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” So help me, I could see the precious, beautiful, most-special baby boy.
In recent months, it has been as though this old Baptist preacher keeps seeing visions. I guess it just fulfills the prophecy that “old men shall see visions.” The “old” part is true, but our kids and grandkids keep telling me not to say it—I’m not old, they say. But the fact is, I am seeing visions, and I’m not hallucinating. So help me, I saw baby Jesus asleep on the hay, wrapped in rags. Somehow it just didn’t seem right for Him—the Messiah, the Promised One, the hope of all humanity—to be lying there in the straw. But I must tell you, He was altogether so amazingly beautiful, as the Christmas favorite Silent Night so clearly proclaims. There He was, sleeping “in heavenly peace.”
I am telling you, I could see Him, and there I, too, along with the shepherds and wise men, worshiped the Promised One—the One who came to pay for and offer peace on earth. Peace to me, you and all who will receive it. Oh, how I long to see people receive the peace that only God can give. It is within and can overflow, inspiring everyone He contacts. This peace can only prevail on earth when it resides in us. It can only come when we yield our lives to the Prince of Peace—to Jesus, the holy child, the perfect demonstration of life and truth, the lamb that was slain, the reigning Lord of all and King of Kings.
As I glanced around the room, I saw many mothers, fathers, grandparents and young people who had come to Jesus as I shared the gospel over the past 50 years. I saw in their countenance the heavenly peace in which Jesus surely slept. Some of them have recently lost loved ones. Others are battling cancer or other debilitating diseases. Some of them have had family members challenged by addictions or financial pressures. But through it all, there was Jesus, revealed so clearly. What a Savior! What a “friend we have in Jesus!”
Once again, that baby asleep on the hay reappeared in my mind’s eye, and I saw indescribable love, grace and forgiveness, “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” My mind was exploding with phrases from treasured Christmas carols, songs, hymns and Bible verses—all increasing my gratitude for the little baby lying in a manger but now living in my heart as the closest possible friend. He is the only one who knows me fully, understands me, and will never leave me nor forsake me. Suddenly, I, too, felt the “peace that passes all understanding.” This peace is available to everyone through the One whose birth I pray you openly and joyfully celebrate this weekend.