What makes a Christmas merry?
It’s Christmas morning and my wife, Gena, and I are celebrating it this year with her family, about 30 in all, gathered at our home in the snow-blanketed woods.
Like most of you, we wake up, exchange some gifts, gather around a warm fire, play games, share meals, and spend a day grateful that we have each other.
We will also read the Christmas story from the Bible and give thanks that Jesus Christ is at the heart of our family and lives. The children will even lead us in singing ”Happy Birthday” to Him.
For us, this is what makes a Christmas merry. What about you?
The influence and wisdom of mom and Billy Graham
Eventually, at some point on Christmas Day, I’ll look around and say under my breath to God: thanks for giving me this family. And thanks for being patient with me, especially in my journey of faith.
Mom raised me to understand the true meaning of Christmas. As the angel revealed 2,000 years ago to the shepherds on those Israeli hills, ”Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
After I graduated from high school, and before I enlisted in the Air Force, I would make a decision to follow the Lord at a Billy Graham crusade at the L.A. Sports Arena.
I was excited to go, simply because it was such an enormous event, but I really didn’t expect to experience anything of significance. After all, I had committed my life to Christ and had been baptized as a boy (at age 12) when our family attended Calvary Baptist Church. But this was different.
I felt a tugging on my heartstrings as the famous preacher explained that Christ had died on the cross in my place, and that it really should have been me being punished by death for my sins. By believing that Jesus died and rose again from the dead, I could be forgiven of my sins, and I could live forever in heaven.
When Billy invited those to the front of the stage who wanted to make that spiritual commitment, I almost leapt to my feet. Had mom and my brothers, Wieland and Aaron, not wanted to go with me, I might have run down to the front.
Whether my response was an intellectual assent to the gospel or a recommitment to the faith I’d embraced as a child, I can’t really say. All I know for sure is that from that night on, I knew my life was in God’s hands. I committed myself to be one of His followers, no matter what, and He committed Himself to me as my Savior and Lord.
Over the years I haven’t always held up my end of the bargain, but (I’m thankful to say) He has never reneged on His.
What good is it to gain the whole world?
My faith would be tested over and over throughout my martial arts and movie careers, when I, like so many before me, had succumbed to the enticements of fame and fortune. As resilient as I thought I was, I bit and swallowed the hook of the Hollywood lifestyle. It would cost me my marriage and cripple my faith.
I learned from my failures, even the spiritual ones. Despite my driven and optimistic attitude, I failed to live up to God’s standards. And I needed God’s grace and forgiveness, just like anyone else.
I could never forget my spiritual roots. And God would periodically send certain people along to remind me of the truths of my Christian heritage, despite that I tried in earnest at times to keep them at bay as I dined on the world’s desserts.
One of those people was Lee Atwater, George Bush Sr.’s campaign manager, who, when dying from a brain tumor, whispered into my ear words that I can still hear today, ”Chuck, trust in the Lord. I love you.”
God would use his words and those of others to begin to call me back to Himself. My life was being challenged to answer Jesus’ question, ”What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
New life, new hope, new marriage
About this time one of my best friends, Larry Morales, came to stay with me while I was filming, ”Walker, Texas Ranger.” He realized how lonely I was and told me, ”You have got to get your act together. You are really not a happy guy. There’s a woman I want you to meet. I’m going to invite her to Dallas.”
Her name was Gena, and I was (to use a passionate term) smitten by her from the start. She would become my marital partner and the instrument to my spiritual renewal.
We were both raised in Baptist homes and drifted away from our faith. The difference with Gena, however, was that years before she had experienced a radical recommitment to the Lord, a sincere and contagious devotion that I needed in my life.
I asked the Lord’s forgiveness (again), and recommitted my life to Him. As a result, the most amazing thing happened: the hole in my heart was healed.
Not only did God bring me a beautiful, loving, supportive, spiritual wife, but, even more, a renewed relationship with Him.
Now what more could a guy want for Christmas?!
Rebel with a cause
For too many years I was in rebellion to God. Now I’m a rebel with a cause for God and for grass-roots America.
I no longer fit the mold. I’m not a liberal actor from Hollywood. I’m not politically correct, in my opinions or my practice. And though I’m concerned with what people think, I will not compromise the truth in any form to cater to others, even with religion and politics.
Those who would merely brand me on ”the right” are oversimplifying and running from the real issue. I’m not the issue! None of us are. Jesus is, especially during Christmas.
And the question He asked the people of His day still needs to be answered by those in ours: ”Who do people say that I am?”
Christmas found in the heart, not under a tree
If you don’t know about the facts of Jesus’ life, or simply have questions about it, you can find many concise answers online at WhoIsJesusReally.com. You can also read about His life in the Bible, now available
online. (I suggest starting at the book of Luke in the New Testament.)
However, always remember, faith is not found in the head, but in the heart. And the true meaning of Christmas is not found under a tree, but on a cross.
If you’re ready to become a Christian, just as Gena, I, and millions of other Christians have, you can do so by simply praying the following prayer from your heart:
Jesus, I want to know you personally, especially as my Savior and Lord. I accept that you died on the Cross for my sins. I open the door of my heart right now and invite you in. Take control of my life. Teach me to be your follower. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. In Your name I pray. Amen.
Write me today ([email protected]) and let me know what you’ve decided about Christ and Christmas. Then take some steps to resolve that this next year you’ll grow spiritually as His follower.
From my family to yours, have a very Merry CHRISTmas!
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