In “The Christmas Story” by author Jean Shepherd. In the movie, Ralphie Parker follows his dream of finding a Red Ryder BB gun under the tree all the way to Christmas morning. As the story unfolds, all of the gifts have been opened and there is no Red Ryder BB gun for Ralphie. He sits there for a moment facing what seems to him to be the sad reality of a dream unfulfilled. His dad lets him squirm a minute or two, and then says “Ralphie what’s that over there?” as he points to an obscure location off to one side of the tree hidden out of sight. Ralphie’s eyes light up and he scoots over to grab the long rectangular box, excited about what is obviously inside. He tears open the paper and his dad laughs joyfully as Mom is reservedly surprised and Ralphie pulls out the dream of his lifetime, a Red Ryder BB gun!
My own Dad once pulled the “all gifts have been opened” scenario on me! I had finally turned twelve years old. For a young boy in Pennsylvania that meant I could start hunting! I had been asking for a shotgun for my big gift. But after all the gifts were opened, I had a moment of sad realization that for some reason I wasn’t getting a shotgun. Just like in the movie, my Dad said, “Nolan what’s that over there behind the curtain?” Sure enough just covered up with an inconspicuous piece of my Moms sewing cloth was a Mossberg 410 gauge shotgun! Even to this day years later, getting that shotgun remains one of my favorite Christmas memories!
My cousin Anita has been researching the genealogy of our family, she has discovered that our family tree has ministers extending all the way back to before the Mayflower. Growing up, I always felt surrounded by Christian relatives. Our family went to church almost every Sunday. We prayed over every meal and always prayed through every crisis that life threw at us. What I had never experienced however, was something, which someone would ask me about somewhat later in life. I guess that until that time I felt that when it came to church and the Christian life, I had experienced it all.
One day as I was standing in a field somewhere outside Jacksonville Florida, a young woman I was dating one day asked me If I had ever felt the peace of God? I said “No. I guess that I do not know what that is.” She said, “I’m going to pray for you, that the peace of God will come and stay on you for three days.” Then the most amazing thing happened! The very second that she prayed for me in Jesus name the tremendous peace of God flooded my being from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet! It stayed with me for three days! When it left I checked my watch. It was almost three days, right down to the minute!
Jesus had said when he was on this earth and teaching His disciples, “ If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13 KJV) Shortly after my experience in the field with that young lady, I dug a dusty Bible out of a box of books in my apartment. My Aunt Carol and Uncle Deyo had given that Bible to me for a high school graduation present.
I started looking in that Bible for the scriptures scriptures found in a book someone had given me called “Living Like a Kings Kid” by Harold Hill. That same day I asked God to fill me to running over with His Holy Spirit. That simple prayer changed my life forever. Suddenly my prayer life took on a whole new dimension. My Bible study seemed to just take off. I could not get enough of God’s Word. I had a new zeal to share my faith with others. Going to church to worship and praise the Lord became my favorite pastime. The wonderful gift of and the power of the Holy Spirit had changed me forever!
I eagerly began to look for people that I could share my new-found experience with inside the churches. What I discovered was when it came to the church; this was one gift that seemed to have been hidden over by the curtain for a while. Speaking figuratively, all the other gifts had been eagerly opened and received but the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus talked about as recorded in Luke 11:13 had been covered up!
In Acts 19:1-4 we read, “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples He said unto them. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them unto what baptism have you been baptized and they said unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul John verily baptized you with the baptism of repentance.” Later, in verse six, they were all then baptized in the Holy Ghost!
What I believe our Heavenly Father would like to say to us this Christmas is “Hey, don’t be discouraged with all the gifts I have given you that don’t seem to be doing enough in this crazy culture of 2020. The most powerful one of all, and the something that you hoped you could get, in order to make a real difference in a hardened world, is just right over there. It’s by the window. Don’t be afraid! Just receive it and open it prayerfully! You will soon find out the “it” is a “Him.” The Holy Spirit will become the most fantastic gift you have ever received!