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WORLDVIEW: At Christmas, Jesus comes to dark & lonely places

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The world sometimes seems very dark to those in dark places. Even spiritual giants.

“I hope no missionary will be as lonely as I have been,” legendary Southern Baptist pioneer Lottie Moon wrote not long before she died on Christmas Eve 1912 — exhausted and discouraged after 40 tumultuous years in China.

How alone must Bill Wallace have felt on Christmas Eve 39 years later, as he lay in a jail cell in Wuzhou, China? Arrested on false charges of spying by local communists, the great missionary doctor was driven to despair and the edge of insanity by constant interrogations, harassment and torture before dying in his cell less than two months later.

“Go back and take care of the hospital,” he told co-workers when he was still in his right mind. “I am ready to give my life if necessary.”

Did the Christ child come to Wallace in that lonely cell on his last Christmas? The Savior was already there, in the missionary’s heart — which Wallace’s tormenters could never touch.

Jesus still comes to lonely places on Christmas.

In Israel, where the Savior was born, Jews who decide to follow Jesus as Messiah often feel they are the “only one.” A 16-year-old came to faith in Jesus through reading the New Testament. He thought he was the only person in Israel who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, until he overheard another young student talking about his faith. Now the 16-year-old is being discipled by his new friend.

Last Christmas morning, “Jill,” a young woman in China, was very much on the minds and hearts of a couple who had shared the Gospel with her a few months earlier. Though she had told them she didn’t need God, they wanted to invite her to their Christmas open house. As they prepared to call her, their phone rang. Jill was on the line. She visited later that day and told them that since their last conversation, her husband had left her for another woman. She had returned to live with her parents and admitted she “wanted to die.”

They told her once again about Christ — and she accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Less than a year later, she has emerged as a leader in her house church, guided many people to Christ and trained them to evangelize others.

On a recent Saturday, missionary Gail Davis and her family drove to a grim, hungry township in South Africa to help give a Christmas party for the children of the area.

“My children had passed by the townships, but had never been in them,” Davis wrote. “They were aghast at the ‘houses’ that people live in, the roads they walk upon and the fact that they had to share metal sheds for toilets. They saw many people lined up at one water spigot getting water for the day. This was a real eye-opener for them. Yet, amidst all this, my 3-year-old saw potential for this very impoverished place. As we drove down the road, he saw a cemetery and said he would like to go play in that playground. When I explained that is where dead people go, he asked, ‘Is that heaven?’

“How many of us can even think about heaven when our senses are so overwhelmed with the negativeness of life and the fear for one’s own safety? My question to myself then became: What would it take to reach these people that God so loves so that they could finally reach heaven? What would you do to bring the Gospel of truth, love and hope to these people dying in masses and being buried in anonymity?”

“Esther,” a Christian teacher in China, found herself in front of a college class last year that knew little English. A student asked her to talk about American culture, so Esther described Thanksgiving and Christmas. When she mentioned Christmas songs, another student asked her sing for them.

She thought about her total lack of singing ability, but launched into teaching the students to sing “Joy to the World” using impromptu hand motions to help them remember the words.

Only one of the 30 students had ever heard the name of Jesus.

“I knew most of them didn’t understand the words they were singing, much less understand who Jesus was,” Esther said. “But as I listened to them sing about the Savior of the world, I prayed they would soon be able to understand — and truly sing for joy.”

On the first Christmas, the angel told the fearful shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).

A great many people in dark and lonely places still haven’t heard that wonderful news. But they will — if we tell them.
Erich Bridges is a senior writer at the Southern Baptist International Mission Board whose column appears twice each month in Baptist Press.

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  • Erich Bridges