Recently, there has been a story bouncing around on my facebook wall. According to local news reports, an unnamed man walked into our community’s WalMart store with $30,000 in his pocket and proceeded to present it to the clerk working in the layaway department. This generous gift paid off hundreds of layaway accounts.
It seems this kind act has set off a chain reaction. Many of the recipients of this financial gift were reported to have been so blessed by this gesture that they, in turn, have also anonymously helped pay off other layaway accounts.
Paying it forward… in every sense of the word.
And while I do not mean to make light of this wonderful holiday happening, I’ve got a story that tops it.
The following words were penned by a Christian woman whose life has been threatened on numerous occasions due to her conversion from Islam. Despite the threats, she continues to share the Gospel in ways that are clear, public, and filled with God’s love. Ways that have invited many others into the true Christmas story in a manner that exceeds the material blessings of this mortal world.
Here is her story:
A fanatic Muslim man wrote to me: “Until the last drop of my blood and the last breath in me, I will find you and kill you. This is my life purpose,” he said. He sent his picture along with his message. In his picture he was holding two machine guns and wearing a commando outfit. He had a green bandana on his forehead and a writing “For Allah.”
With a heavy heart, I went into my closet and I wept. I wept not because I feared my life. I already gave it up for Christ Jesus when I started going in front of the TV cameras. I wept because the intense hatred in a man’s heart hurt me. I talked to the Lord, “Lord, what would you do? How would you answer?” Jesus said to me, “Remember, I died for this fanatic Muslim man too,” and He gave me the answer.
I responded to the man. “You wrote me until your last drop of blood and last breath you will find me and kill me. I tell you, Until the last drop in my blood and last breath I will love you. Because my Lord Jesus says: ‘Love your enemies.’”
After two weeks, he wrote me back, “I couldn’t believe what you wrote me. How can you love someone like me? How can Your God love me? Tell me your story.”
After several weeks of correspondences, he surrendered his life to Jesus.
WITH MAN THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. NOT WITH GOD. WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.
My precious sister in Christ is paying God’s love forward… in every sense of the Word. She chose to overcome hate with love, and I have a new brother in Christ because of it.
But believe it or not, I have yet another story that tops this. In fact, it not only tops these stories; it is the very reason these stories exist:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20)
Perhaps you have read or heard this story from Luke many times before, or maybe it is the very first time you’ve ever encountered the retelling of the birth of Jesus. The point is not in the number of times you have heard it, the point is in the hearing of it. The sad truth is that most of us hear much throughout our lives, yet remain unaffected by what we hear.
I pray that is not the case as we read the words of God. Because God’s Word is meant to affect us. It’s meant to pierce the depths of our hearts with the light of His love. It’s meant to change our lives.
The reason my friend could respond in love to the man who threatened her life was because she was secure in the love that Christ’s life offered her. The reason the man responded in wonder to her ability to choose love was because he had only been taught to hate. He had never heard about the mercy of Jesus Christ.
Until someone loved him enough to tell him.
The real Christmas Story is the ultimate message of love:
The Son of God born in a manger because there was no room for Him elsewhere.
A King who wrapped Himself in the humble confines of humanity so we could see His glory here on earth.
A sinless Savior who embraced a cross so we could be declared innocent.
A triumphant Lord who conquered the grave so we could be freed from the grip of death – forever.
Today, I invite you to step into the ultimate Christmas story – a life that lives to show His love. May we pay it forward so that the giving of the Gift continues.