With what shall I come to the Lord? (Micah 6:6)
Christmas Eve 1972. Forty years ago today. I remember the day as if it happened only a few weeks ago.I still see myself kneeling at the side of my bunk in Barracks M, above the chow hall on the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. I’d recently finished Hal Lindsay’s, The Late Great Planet Earth. His references to Jesus the Messiah in my Jewish Bible amazed me. No, that is not the correct word. His references astounded me.
In all my life – I was 22 at the time – I never remembered opening a Bible, and certainly had never heard of the many prophecies in my Bible that referred to Jesus. Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, Daniel 7, Zechariah 12, Psalm 22, Psalm 16, Jeremiah 31, Micah 5, Deuteronomy 18 are just a few that come immediately to mind. But there they were, pulsating on the pages as I read his book.Still skeptical, I walked the two blocks to the base chapel and asked the Jewish chaplain if I could borrow a Bible. I took it back to my room to verify the texts Lindsay quoted were actually there, in my Jewish Bible.
They were.The number forty occurs often in Scripture. Forty days of Jesus in the wilderness. Forty years Israel wandered in the desert. Forty days Moses stayed at the top of the mountain of God. Forty days and nights it rained after Noah and his family entered the Ark.
I never thought forty years ago my life would take the twists and turns it has taken, each twist and each turn leading me ultimately to this place and time on December 24, 2012 as I type these words. But it all began as I knelt by my bunk in Barracks M. The Holy Spirit, having shown me through my Jewish Bible the truth about sin and judgment, but also about mercy and forgiveness, I stared at the clouds beyond my window and said to God, “I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”Six words, forty years ago. Unspoken in those six words, but resolute in my heart as I spoke them, was my promise to God of my commitment to Him. I didn’t know the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time:
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen . . .But I meant every syllable in the six words I spoke. And to this day, forty years later, I have tried my best to live according to the unspoken intent of those six words.
Have I failed Him in those forty years? Many times. Has God forgiven me, reconciled me, redirected me? Every time I confessed my failure. Every time.
Forty years. Over and over and again and again I have fallen to my knees and re-committed myself to my God and Savior.How long has it been since you said to God something similar to St. Ignatius’ prayer: Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen.
This is Christmas Eve. If you’ve never done it, why not do it now? If you’ve done it many times, why not do it again? What better gift this Christmas could you give to yourself, your family, your community . . .And to God?