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A Grateful Heart as We Approach Christmas

Dr. Anthony Campolo tells the true story of a minister who was on a train leaving Victoria Station.

Sitting across from him in the little train compartment were two men in their late thirties. About ten minutes out of the station, one of the men had an epileptic seizure. His eyes rolled back and his body trembled. The man rolled off the seat onto the floor and shook uncontrollably. It was a shocking thing to see. His friend lifted the stricken man up and put him back onto the seat, took off his overcoat, and put it around him as a blanket. He rolled up a newspaper and put it in his mouth, lest the man bite his tongue. Then with great compassion, he lovingly blotted the beads of perspiration on the epileptic man’s forehead. After a few minutes, the seizure ended with the same abruptness with which it began, and the stricken man dropped into a deep sleep. It was then that his friend turned to the preacher and said, “You’ll have to forgive us. He doesn’t have these seizures very often, and we never know when they’re going to strike him.

“We were in Vietnam together,” he continued. “We were both wounded. I lost a leg.” Pointing to his right leg he said, “This is an artificial leg. I’ve learned to walk on it very well. My friend here had half of his chest blown away by a hand grenade. There was shrapnel all through his chest, and every time he moved he experienced great pain.

“The helicopter that was supposed to rescue us was blown out of the sky by an enemy rocket, and with that explosion, we knew that all hope for rescue was gone. It was then that my friend somehow picked himself up. He screamed in pain with every move he made, but somehow he stood to his feet. Then he reached down and grabbed hold of my shirt and started pulling me through the jungle. I tried to tell him to give up on me. I pleaded with him to save himself if he could, and I kept telling him there was no way he was going to get us both out of the jungle. I’ll never forget him saying, ‘Jack, if you die in this jungle, I’m going to die here with you.’ I don’t know how he did it, mister, but step by step, scream by scream, he pulled me out of that mess. He saved my life!

“A year ago I found out that he had this condition and that somebody had to be with him all the time. So I closed down my condo in New York, sold my car, and came over here to take care of him. That’s our story. I hope you understand.”

My friend responded by saying, “Don’t apologize. I’m a preacher. Whenever I come upon a good story, I’m thrilled. And this is one of the best stories I’ve heard in a long time.”

His new friend on the other side of the compartment said, “Hey! Don’t be impressed. You see, after what he did for me, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him.”

What a great statement. This should be the perspective of all Christians. God the Father did not want us to perish, so He sent His Son into the world. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

This is the message of Christmas. Joseph, upon learning that Mary is pregnant without his effort, is preparing to have her sent away. The gospel of Matthew tells us that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to take Mary as his wife, for the child in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And then he tells Joseph something of great significance: “She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

This is what God has done for us. This was his plan all along. And this is why the Apostle Paul says so appropriately, “Thanks be to God for His incredible gift.” (II Corinthians 9:15)

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