This post is about Christmas. It is also partly about my mother: fiercely independent; headstrong yet kindly to those in distress; incredibly industrious; staunch and steadfast in her loving; and fully committed to the Lord.
Mother was in her late teens when she became a Christian. She came to know God in a totally different way from how I did. It only took her two sentences to tell me how she became a Christian; but those two strings of words transcribed into a life of devotion to and an unwavering faith in her God.
I was swimming in deep water in the sea when I developed cramp in my legs, and was in danger of drowning. I called to God and asked Him to save me, telling Him that I would commit my life to Him and serve Him always if He would save my life.
The rest, as they say, is history.
God comes to us in so many different ways. For me, it was my response to Mr Tan’s heartfelt sharing of how he came to know the Lord. (See my previous post.) My heart, mind, and soul were moved by the Holy Spirit as all those pieces of information I had known as separate entities came together. I understood in the deepest part of my being that God wanted me to enter into a personal relationship with Him. And I wanted that too. I also realised that God does not force His way into our lives. Instead, He gives us the grace to invite Him into our lives. Indeed, He had already provided a way for us puny humans to access Him 2000 years ago – through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is why we celebrate Christmas: a date, one might say, could well have been secular in origin, but certainly, for Christians, it is a date that offers up a focal point of remembrance and commemoration of God’s gift to mankind: salvation and reunion with the Lord through Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross.
For Mother and for me, it was simply a matter of accepting that God IS God. Therefore, there was NO doubt in our minds that He who can save us spiritually can also save, protect and guide us whilst we are in this world. I took up Mr Tan’s call: I repented of past misdemeanours; acknowledged that He, the Lord Jesus, had died for my sins and risen again, thereby conquering death once for all. I simply asked Jesus to come into my life, to help me grow up in Him, and vowed to follow and serve Him all the rest of my days. That was it! I had become a Christian. Now, the difficult part would consist of walking the narrow way, particularly in respect of the wider world at large and my own particular weaknesses as a person.
Mother is now severely incapacitated by the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. She lacks any real control of her limbs, is practically devoid of speech, doubly incontinent, and, I would guess, probably incapable of recognising me. Last Christmas, I sang both hymns and songs familiar to her when she was a young woman until my voice gave way. They raised a beatific smile, her eyes seeming to gleam with delight as if they had lit up behind those closed lids which open but rarely. Mother was aware of the onset of her debilitating illness and knew that it could never be cured. Yet, her trust in our heavenly Father’s love and unwavering faith in God enabled her to ride the trials of this disease. I remember her reading her Bible, praying with head bowed, in her room. She was probably unable to remember what she was reading or praying even as she did so. But, the Bible tells us that
the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
The gift of Christmas is God’s own gift of Himself to mankind manifested in His Son. This is what Christmas is about. For Mother, for me, for those of us who call ourselves Christians because we believe in the saving grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection and His gift of eternal life, every day is a gift day, a Christmas day. The knowledge and experience of the Lord’s presence, love and succour throughout the lives of practising Christians is what makes Christmas so special. Jesus is but a prayer away.
Just thinking about Christmas . . . a blessing indeed!