By Judy Brandon: Local columnist
At times I am able to tune in to Ravi Zacharias on the radio. A dynamic speaker, he is also a wonderful teacher and a Christian theologian who has a worldwide ministry. He is highly educated and a visiting scholar at Oxford.
Zacharias speaks to scores of college groups and at university forums all across the world. The other night I was listening to him on the radio, and he gave a beautiful illustration worth retelling.
Zacharias could not remember where he heard the story, but it was when the Billy Graham team had a festival in Romania in the 1980s. One of the workers on the team was strolling down the street in the city where the festival was being held. He was in a downtown park and likely one of the few around who spoke English.
The story goes that as this man was walking, he passed another man who was whistling. Immediately the man from America recognized the tune the man was whistling as the old hymn “The Great Physician.” Excited to hear something he knew, the American stopped the man who was whistling and asked him in English, “Are you a believer?”
The Romanian looked at the American with a puzzled stare, shook his head and then motioned with his hands that he did not understand. So the American asked again, “Believer?” and then pointed to the Romanian saying, “You?”
Again, the man from Romania could not understand. Then the American had a thought. He began to whistle the same hymn “The Great Physician.” With that, the Romanian man’s face lit up and he joined in with the American. They stood there in the park, Romanian and American strangers, whistling verse and chorus of the hymn “The Great Physician.”
When they were finished, the two strangers embraced. Then the Romanian pointed his finger up toward the sky, as if toward heaven, and the American followed, hand raised to the sky. Then they shook hands and went their separate ways.
Here is my perspective on that illustration. I know that Christmas is commercialized and many people really do leave Christ out of Christmas. Some believers even lament the Christmas season, saying, “How do we know when Christ was born? … So it is not spiritual to choose a day to celebrate Christ’s birth.” That is not the point.
The point is that millions in the world recognize Christ’s birth and we do set aside a time to celebrate it. Celebrating Christ’s birth is evidence and testimony that we know he came to Earth as a man and died on the cross and rose again. Because of that, Jesus is the great bridge who connects all cultures, languages, ethnicities, all levels of income, famous and infamous, even people who are strangers. The Christ of Bethlehem is the savior of all who accept him, and therefore even strangers who know him can be brothers and sisters in Christ.
When I see my manger scene from Bethlehem or hear young children in South America singing about Jesus’ birth, or I watch a missions report about Lottie Moon in China, I rejoice in the season because I know that Christ connects all those who honor him.
That connection allows all believers, whoever they are, to fellowship and worship in the sprit of the Lord. Yes, millions and even billions that I could never know … someday I will know because we all know the Christ of Bethlehem.
Judy Brandon is a Clovis resident. Contact her at: