Good News in the Christmas Season
With the nation reeling from the explosive (before and after) midterm elections, we enter the Christmas season with a sense of trepidation, mixed with hope for some peace and quiet before the rancor resumes Jan. 2.
Yet, in the midst of the devastation and chaos of late, I suggest there is still good news to be found. News worth reflecting on during this season marking the Savior’s birth.
One such example I learned about through a recent story in the Catholic Leader: the conversion of lifelong atheist and former Australian Gov. Gen. Bill Hayden.
The noted Labor party leader was baptized at the age of 85, leading to visions of renowned atheist author Christopher Hitchens spinning in his grave.
“From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God,” Hayden told the Leader just before his Sept. 9 baptism at St. Mary’s Church in Ipswich, just west of Brisbane.
Gift of Presence
Hayden pressed ahead with the service despite health setbacks. After suffering a stroke in 2014, he was feeling “great pain” from a recent fall that resulted in a broken shoulder.
It is quite ironic that as determined as the former atheist used to be in denying the existence of God, now he was equally determined to proclaim His presence.
One of the most encouraging aspects of Hayden’s story concerned the impact the actions of others had made on him, including his mother. Then there were the nuns who taught him at a primary school in inner-city Brisbane.
However, a key factor in Hayden’s faith journey came from a recent hospital visit to Sister of Mercy Angela Mary Doyle.
“I have always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example,” Hayden said. “(She) was for 22 years administrator at Mater hospitals in Brisbane—a citadel of health care for the poor of Southern Brisbane, where I grew up . . .”
The reason I call that encouraging is because it demonstrates the value of quiet commitment and faithful service.
This is the kind that may never attract headlines, media attention, or great “hurrah’s” until someone at the sunset of their life talks about what an impact it made on them.
Another Stirring Decision
Not long after Hayden’s decision, we experienced this kind of momentous step at our church.
It happened on a Wednesday evening as we neared the end of a Bible study and discussion group.
Because our pastor works a full-time job (actually, two full-time jobs), the elders had agreed that we needed to rotate leadership of mid-week studies to give him a break. And time to tend to his duties at home, which include raising four school-age daughters.
The first night of these new lay-led sessions, a modestly-dressed man I recognized from a previous encounter appeared at the sanctuary door.
This man, who I’ll call Randy, had recently started volunteering at the church’s food pantry directed by my wife, Janet.
When the Bible study leader inquired of Randy how we could help, he asked if the pastor or Janet (his view of her was blocked by another person) was there.
“I want to rededicate my life to Jesus,” he said, breaking into tears. “You’ve got some awfully good people here.”
Immediately, the leader replied, “That’s what we’re here for.”
Stopping our discussion, we gathered around Randy to pray with him and welcome him home.
He told of marking four months of sobriety that day. And, his determination to overcome his problem—and help his sister by accompanying her to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Randy also mentioned how he was touched deeply by my wife’s kindness and that of other pantry volunteers. He’s now in church every Sunday.
Hard to imagine a better Christmas present!