God’s voice can speak loudest in the quietest moments. Experiencing this myself made for a most memorable Christmas.
In the early ‘90s, I was living in Richmond programming an Oldies station there. Christmas was on the way, and I always penciled myself in for the 6am-noon shift on December 25th. Most of the full-time on-air team were married and had family in the area. I was a twenty-something bachelor and my hometown was fourteen hours away, by car. Handling wake-up duties on Christmas morning was a tiny token of my appreciation for them.
The days and nights leading to Christmas that year were hectic and overstuffed. Weekends were full of remotes and events, evenings booked with parties and gatherings. Plus the added workload of commercial production and preparations for the coming new year. But by Christmas Eve morning, life began a welcomed decompression. The GM had already flown out-of-town for his family’s holiday festivities. Most of the staff left early. Soon, it was just me and the afternoon talent. The offices were silent, practically reverent -an odd experience for a Tuesday afternoon. All that could be heard was a distant rumble from studio monitors in the middle of the building, still cranked at peak decibels, no doubt.
At 6pm, the “Good Times and Great Oldies” gave way to continuous Christmas carols and holiday classics. Frankly, these were the only hours of the year when the Lord made the playlist, save for a once-in-a-blue-moon spin of “People Get Ready” by the Impressions or Cat Steven’s version of “Morning Has Broken” on a Class of ‘72 Weekend.
Driving home into the vibrant oranges and purples of a winter sunset, I planned to stop by the grocery store to grab something for dinner. Think again. Even the Golden Arches were dimmed for the night. I don’t recall what I ate, but it was likely a tuna fish sandwich, popcorn, or a frozen pizza. I was a bachelor and I ate like it.
My home was in an area of Richmond called The Fan. Blocks of turn-of-the-century row houses, shops and restaurants set close to the sidewalk. Those streets, moderately abuzz as a rule, were all quiet this evening. Quiet to the point of being noticeable. Not in an eerie way; but rather, in by its’ peace. I was moved.
In my townhouse, I sat on the couch, still, staring at the Christmas tree and the meek but warm glow from the colored lights framing the windows of the house across the street. The soundtrack to the evening was hushed: the nostalgic familiarity of Christmas music from the JVC stereo receiver (remember those?) turned down low and an occasional gurgle issued forth by the ancient steam radiator….and all of it was simply powerful. That Christmas Eve, an awareness of awe came over me. A willing surrender to God’s goodness and His profound love. A reminder of a love so great, He gladly parted with a living son, so that we, the undeserving, could know forgiveness, know Him and know life eternally. That evening, the presence of the Lord was surely upon Strawberry Street, Richmond, VA 23220.
To be fully transparent, my relationship with the Lord was shallow, at best, during this period of my life. I’d been away from church for years. The culture..and, frankly, sin..shaped my worldview way more than Scripture. I knew Jesus was my Savior but scant evidence was seen in how I lived. It would be several more years before I re-committed my life to Christ. Perhaps this makes it all the more profound that God still shared His loving presence on Christmas Eve with a child such as I.
In the silence I heard the Lord. His mercy, His holiness, and His peace. All is well and goodwill toward man, at least for a night and into the next frosty morning. A quarter-century has passed, but each December, I relive that Christmas like it were yesterday. And I recall the unique joy of being by myself, but far from alone.
“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10 ESV
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isiah 9:6. ESV
Executive Director, Audio Media – Billy Graham Evangelistic Association