Monday, December 15, 2008

Hark!

This is the story of the "coming to faith" of a dear friend, Dave Hingsburger of Chewing the Fat . Thank you so much Dave, and welcome to Whatever He Says as a guest blogger.
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I am a Christmas Christian. By this I do not mean that I come back to faith, yearly, like a salmon spawning. No, though my faith is strengthened by the rituals and the ceremony of the holidays, I am a year round believer. But I came to faith at Christmas. In fact I remember the exact moment that I met Jesus.

A fat and ungainly child, a child of no promise in a home infused with violence, I did not love life, I feared it. Constant, unrelenting fear. Christmas was a time to be endured, gotten through, escaped. A holiday that, to me, resembled a drunken man laughing too loud in a bar, I despised the season. All I knew was that at some moment the stress of the season would break and then part of me would break or bruise. I saw adulthood ahead, I saw it as a land wherein I would make the rules and one of those rules would be no Christmas, no family, and thereby, no pain.

I was home alone, upstairs in my room. I had a room with a peaked ceiling and a window that looked out onto the road in front of the house. I was looking out the window and listening to music on the radio. Hark the Herald came on and I listened to the familiar tune and perhaps even sang along. But between the last Christmas and this one, the words were more than lyrics - they told a story. Suddenly I understood it all, Christmas, had a point. Jesus, his birth, was separate from the casual violence of an angry mother and a neglectful father. There was something behind all this, something much, much deeper.

I stole downstairs and found an old Bible and took it back up to my room. I found something there that I didn't know existed. Love.

Oddly, I was never charmed by the baby Jesus. I didn't have need of an infant Christ. Even though my faith came at Christmas, it came with an Easter understanding. But the spectacles of the faith, Santa and the Bunny, weren't what mattered to me then, or indeed now. It was the daily companionship of a God who loved me. It was the daily walking together. It was the daily chats. My aloneness dissipated and my childhood grew less heavy in my hands. I felt the burden shared, I felt that this man somehow could love me.

It is many years later, and I still find that the friendly Jesus who I knew as a child has remained close. Our relationship has changed, of course, over time. There was a time when he just was with me, got me through, helped me get back up, again and again. He demanded little of me. He wanted only to be a whisper of confidence when blows rained down. Now, I find myself arguing a bit with this friend of mine. He wants things of me now, like tolerance and a thirst for justice. He sometimes wants more of me than I am prepared to give. He sometimes seems to see in me more, much much more, than I know is there.

At church this morning we sang Hark the Herald and when we got to these lines:

Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

I was taken back to that day in my childhood bedroom listening to these words, for the first time. Tears filled my eyes at the memory of a relationship that began that day. It would be years before anyone ever spoke to me about being 'born again' and I remember being struck at the intensity with which I was being spoken too. Of course faith gives a second birth, of course it did. The idea thrilled me as a boy, the first go round wasn't all that successful and another shot seemed wonderful. Then and now.

So I wish that friendly man who came at Christmas a happy birthday. I'll greet him on Christmas morning like I did that year. With gratitude.

Because each moment we spent together was one I didn't spend alone. Because each time he held me, I knew that love was possible. Because each time he picked me up, I knew I was closer to home.

9 comments:

Shan said...

It seems incongruous to flatter the writer of a religious blog, but what a great post. Thanks for that.

Belinda said...

"'Tis old, yet ever new;" the story of Jesus and his love;a story I never tire of hearing.

Brenda said...

Dave, What a heart wrenching story. I share your love of Him, too. He rescued me from the pit very recently and this will be my best Christmas ever.

Joyful Fox said...

Dave I am sorry about your childhood and what happened. That is sad. I am thankful though that the little boy's heart sought a Father who knew how to love and called you "son".

God is so remarkable and loving. I am amazed that God took Christmas to speak into your heart and call you His. The season you most disliked was the season He called you and gave you reason to value it. That is so God!

Our faith is very unique. Jesus, a vulnerable baby - needy, reliant on human arms for care - just like all of us was who God sent to show His love to the world. A baby, a saviour and a life on earth was what He gave. Christ has known every yearning, longing, disappointment, grief, and rejection that we have ever felt. He comforts, he loves and it is that lovingkindness that is better than life itself.

From the cradle to the cross - what a testimony of God's son. What a faith we embrace!

Thank you Dave for sharing all this. Thank you for your post. God is so good! Life stories like these just make me love HIm more.

Susan said...

Sigh...

Sigh, sigh, sigh. God sure is good. He sure is.

I love Christmas, maybe because of all the wonderful Christmas stories, starting with the greatest one of all in Luke 2. Then there's O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi". And the chapter about how the March girls celebrated Christmas in "Little Women". I can't leave out "The Little Match Girl" (it made me cry the first time my mother read it to me as a little girl, and it still brings a tear or two), or Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". I love Christmas stories. And this one I will come back to again and again, just like all my other favourites. Thanks, Dave. Merry Christmas!

Angcat said...

I thank you Dave for sharing too.

I can picture a boy, in his room with a Bible, finding love.

God is so faithful.

Merry Christmas!

Meg said...

Dear Dave, I have been waiting to read your story. What a lovely time to share it. There were tears in my eyes, not just for your suffering, but for the lovely words you used to describe Jesus, His conversations with you, His knowledge of you, His expectations, His love. I pray that you will have many more homecomings, each better than the last one. I am reminded of two stories. One is very secondhand, about Keith Green, and how he would come home, excited, again and again, to his wife saying, "I've just been born again, again!" I know what that feels like...again and again. Another story comes from a time of "soaking" I did , listening deeply to well chosen Christian music, letting my tears out, letting God speak to me through the words...I was deeply blessed by words from a David Crowder song, "All I can say", in which he said that he didn't know that was you crying too, meaning that Jesus was crying when he was crying. That was so healing for me. If you don't know the song, you can find it on a You Tube clip that I shared on one speechless day for my blog contribution on Wednesday, November 12th.

Hope to hear more of your story, and of your conversations with Jesus.

Joanne B said...

Thank you, Dave. Christmas has been a difficult holiday for me since I lost my husband.
You have reminded me of the TRUE meaning of Christmas once again.
I needed that, thank you
God bless you
Joanne

Night Owl said...

Dear Dave,
I'm mostly speechless, to tell you the truth. I'm sorry for what happened in your past. But I see so much hope here because who you are today is such a wonderful, brilliant shining star for many others in the world.
On a lighter note, at the beginning, this sounded like How the Grinch Stole Christmas - because you didn't like Christmas so much. I'm happy your heart grew with the realization of what Christmas is really about. (Not saying that you had a small, "grinchy" heart before...)
Anyway, I'm going to stop before I ruin it...
Thanks for writing. :)
Love Night Owl