by Tony Tucker
Originally published in PresChat, December 2002
It was a snowy December 17 afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky back in 1982. I had just completed my final exams at Southern Seminary and was packing up my car to come home. This would be no ordinary Christmas break. After a summer term and a fall semester at Southern, I was leaving my friends and all that was familiar to me to transfer to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Southwestern was a place I had never seen, but a place to which I knew the Lord was leaving me.
Texas seemed half a world away as I attempted to pack the last of my belongings into my car. It seemed that in the six months that I had resided in Kentucky, I had acquired more than just a renewed appreciation for bluegrass music. I could not fit all of my belongings into my Toyota for the 330 mile move back to Lafayette.
Providentially, David Self, , a friend of mine from Macon, was going home in just two days. He offered to bring the rest of my items. We arranged a meeting time and place. I said my goodbyes and got in my car to drive away. The beautiful Georgian architecture of the campus provided a picturesque background as I glance into my rear view mirror. It was reminiscent of a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting as a handful of guys stood there in the falling snow, waving to me. I was sad to think that I might never see any of them again.
Little did I realize that exactly one year later to the day, Paul Beith, one of the young men standing there, would be in Euless, Texas singing at my wedding to a young woman whom, at that point, I had not met. He would meet Sharon Tinney, Cindy’s lifelong best friend, college roommate, and our maid of honor. Every time I look at paul and Sharon’s 3 beautiful children, I thank the Lord for leading me to Louisville, although I did not understand then. I fondly remember many New Year’s Eves when our family would meet theirs in Gatlinburg. I’m affectionately known to Katy, James, and mary as “Uncle Tony” and that is fine with me.
Two days after I left Louisville, David Self pulled his Ford Maverick off I-75 the Ringgold/Lafayette exit. David’s car was dilapidated by most standards but was typical of the average poverty-stricken seminary student. He was always thankful to get to any place he headed in it and he always packed an extra quart of oil. After talking to him for awhile, I took my stuff from his car and put them into mine. I then handed him the wedding gift for he and Kathy a lovely young blind woman from Macon who was to become his bride in the spring. We had discussed his decision to marry a blind girl many times. I didn’t think a pastor needed that added burden, and we were close enough that I was able to share my concerns without offending him. He had told me “when you love someone, the handicap doesn’t matter. Time , the Holy Spirit, and the experience having my own wife paralyzed in a car accident have shown me the error of my line of thinking. David handed me a card, we shook hands, embraced, promised to keep in touch, and said goodbye. Although we have spoken on the phone, I have not seen him since that day.
When I arrived home, I walked to the fireplace in the den. The fire behind me was warm and provided just enough light for me to see his card as I removed it from the envelope. On the front of the card were the faces of twelve to sixteen men ranging in history from Confucius and the Buddha, to Alexander the Great, Muhammad, a couple of the Caesars, and Hitler. It was the most unusual looking card I had ever seen. Underneath the pictures were the words “History is filled with men who wished to become gods…” As I opened the card, my eyes were drawn to the center where there was just a simple drawing of the Christ child lying in the manger. Underneath the drawing were the words: “but only one God who was willing to become man.” At that moment, I know I let out an audible sigh, because the reality of the incarnation of our Lord gripped me, as it never had before. I felt overwhelmed and moved to tears.
This is the essence of the gospel. This is what separated Christianity from all other world religions. This is speaking of the greatest intervention ever of God into human history. God became man! It even sounds fantastic! God became man to live the life that I can not live,to pay the debt I owed with His very life, and to be raised up to return to the place that He, even now, is preparing for me. I have never looked at Christmas the same since that evening and I realized that nothing in this world wa the same after the angel appeared to Mary.
This time of year things can become very hectic. It sometimes seems that we won’t get everything done or don’t have the financial resources we need to meet our obligations and expectations of the holidays. The prospect of that stresses us out. Many are haunted this time of the year by memories of holidays past or loved ones departed. Let me encourage you at some point this holiday season to get alone with God and just contemplate the incarnation of our Lord. Ask our Father to let the reality of it consume you just as it did me over 30 years ago. It will give you a proper perspective this Christmas, and before the holidays are over, you will undoubtedly meet someone who will need to hear the words that no other faith on earth can utter, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!