The first time I met Jesus was at a Vacation Bible School, singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “Jesus Loves Me”. Anything that had to do with Jesus was fun and games.
The next time I met him was when our minister, Brother Castles, asked me to teach the Intermediate Sunday School class. This scared me because I was only two or three years older than the class members. But Jesus began to come into focus as I struggled with the printed material and restless teens, me being one of them.
Then, there was a long period of Jesus-less years in high school. Although I kept one foot in the Methodist Youth Fellowship, He was on the periphery of my schedule.
Pearl Harbor appeared suddenly, but I remember high school years mostly as a fun time. The war was still going on when I graduated, and I joined the US Navy to keep from being drafted. I spent a little tine on a ship looking for enemy submarines (I had trained at Auburn University as a Radio/Radar Technician).
After a boat accident, I was assigned time on an Air Force base in Argentia, Newfoundland. A strange time in my life, this is where I had a “Come to Jesus” encounter. One evening, there was to be a big party at the Mess Hall. For some reason, I didn’t go, but stayed in my dorm room by myself. I remember kneeling beside my bunk and asking God to take over my life. It was a quiet, undramatic experience, but I felt the presence of Christ as never before. Later, I shared this experience with the base chaplain, who almost dismissed it as a case of “homesickness”. I may have been homesick, but I also decided to follow Christ. Now, here I am, over 70 years after that experience, still endeavoring to keep Christ first.
I wish I could say that I’ve been a true-blue follower. Sometimes I feel I’ve fallen way short of the Jesus way of life and living. I have resigned from the ministry many Sunday evenings, only to hit the road again on Tuesdays. The pulpit has been my greatest privilege, and also my most difficult assignment.
Jesus became the “silent force” in my life. I say “silent” because although He takes first place, I believe you have to be careful with “Jesus talk”. I’ve talked with many people who were hit with too much Jesus-talk, and who rebelled in response. It’s easy to turn people off, unintentionally.
Somehow, any encounter with Jesus is very personal and sacred; we need to be careful how we use His name. We can say the name Jesus all day long and not feel a thing. So we must look at His message. What He did and said must be the main focus. People have said that there will never be “room in the inn” for Jesus. Yet He is the best answer to our problems and needs. He is still the champion of the poor, the lover of the children, and the best way to live a good life.
We are now in a special time of year. The television ad says, “Christmas is what you make it.” So, let’s celebrate it heartily and make it a time of renewal and fun. Let’s draw closer to each other and closer to the One who took on human flesh to reveal God’s love and to change the course of history.
I attended the fantastic production “A Calvary Christmas”, featuring the Living Nativity and came away with my cup running over. As John Wesley put it, “I felt my heart strangely warmed,” so I express heartfelt thanks to Dr. B. David Brooks and Jeremy Christ, and all of the talented people for making it the high point in my Christmas celebration.
My wish for Christmas this year is for two healed legs, and do you know what? That wish is being granted every day through the wonderful therapists at the Regency House in Alexandria. They have the spirit of Santa, the spirit of giving all they can to help heal bodies. The best gifts are not always under the Christmas tree.
In short, I am grateful for all my encounters with Christ. I pray they will continue until time is no more. Amen.