The gift is yours to share at Christmas and throughout the year
-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
Christmas is upon us again. I always get excited for this season. I always look with wonder at the birth of Christ. The arrival of Jesus at the scandalous intersection of an unwed teen mother and claims of virgin birth, and the rescue mission for which Jesus had arrived – to build a bridge of reconciliation between holy God and fallen man – has always seemed a tale beyond the limits of human conception. It seems just, well, incredible.
Magician, comedian and pundit Penn Jillette was an atheist years ago. He recounted being gifted a pocket-sized book containing the biblical Psalms and New Testament by a fan after a show in Las Vegas with great admiration for the kind and bold businessman who’d approached him to give him the gift.
In the front of the small book the gifter inscribed a hopeful note wishing for Jillette to read and enjoy the book, and sharing his personal prayer that the entertainer would come to know Christ.
Jillette, moved by the man’s gesture, recalled: “He was kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes, and talked to me, and then gave me this Bible.”
“I’ve always said,” Jillette explained, “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward.
“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Jillette then offered this example to illustrate his point: “If I believed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, that the truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point that I tackle you, and this is more important than that.”
“This guy was a really good guy. He was polite, honest, and sane, and he cared enough about me to proselytize and give me a Bible.”
At the time that Jillette recounted the story, he’d not yet been moved to a position of belief in God, and I have no idea if that has changed to this day. I do have no doubt it will change. The old saying is that there are no atheists in foxholes, but a truer sentiment in my mind is “there are no atheists on the other side of death’s door.”
Jillette’s acknowledgement of both the urgency and propriety of his Christian fan’s desire to see him (and others) come to salvation is profound. Sadly, it’s also not shared by a vast swath of “Christians” who don’t adhere to the Bible’s directive to bring the good news of hope to others.
I received some consternation on a recent trip when I told an event room full of pastors they don’t have a church if they’re not evangelical, they have a club.
I didn’t mean to offend, but I don’t mind if folks were offended, either.
Sometimes being offended is what it takes to get us to take a look at reality.
We don’t know what time of year Jesus was born, and there are many scholarly arguments about such, but to me it doesn’t matter. We know that Jesus was born, and that his arrival amounts to the best gift ever given – the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that through Abraham’s lineage “all nations will be blessed” – and that is more than worth setting aside a season of each year to celebrate.
It also reminds us that this gift isn’t for selfishly hoarding. This gift – the gift of redemption and salvation – isn’t just the true gift that keeps on giving… it’s the gift God intends for us to help keep giving.
For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him ~ John 3:17
Have a Merry Christmas, all.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.