By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Last year a friend gave me a copy of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christmas. The book is not new, having been written in 1998. I had heard of the book but this was the first time I actually held it in in my hand and began to read through it.
What makes the book significant for me is that Strobel is a journalist. When he penned the book, he wrote for the Chicago Tribune. He also was an avowed atheist, according to biographical data.
It is significant that an atheist would be interested enough to actually investigate if the Christ child was who we, as Christians, know Him to be.
Why would a journalist and atheist care in the first place?
Strobel explained that one year, about a month before Christmas, he wrote a story for a series of articles on the neediest people in Chicago. He met one family that literally changed his life. He related the story of Perfecta Delgado and her two granddaughters who had been burned out of their home and were living in a tiny two-room apartment. He noted there was no furniture, rugs or anything on the walls. “They were virtually devoid of possessions,” he wrote in his introduction to the book.
But despite their poverty, Strobel was impacted by the fact that Perfecta, who was 60 years old, talked about her faith in Jesus Christ. “I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace,” Strobel wrote.
He recalled that he moved on from the story and didn’t think much about the family until Christmas Eve when Strobel was in the office on a slow news day. He thought about the Delgados and couldn’t help but see the irony. “Here was a family that had nothing but faith and seemed happy, while I had everything I needed materially but lacked faith — and inside I felt as empty and barren as their apartment.”
Strobel left the newspaper office early that day and went by to visit the family. When he arrived at their home, he could not believe what he saw. People had responded to his article and had showered the grandmother and her grandchildren with gifts including furniture and appliances, as well as thousands of dollars. Yet, more amazing was what Perfecta and her grandchildren were doing: getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth. Strobel asked her why, and her response was, “Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.”
Strobel was “blown away” with her response, but she added, “We did nothing to deserve this — it’s a gift from God. But it’s not His greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow (Christmas Day). That is Jesus.”
Ultimately, her life and testimony caused Strobel to embark on a journey for himself to see who Jesus really was and to find out if He was truly the Son of God. I won’t ruin the book for anyone that would like to read it, but I imagine you can guess what he found out when he investigated and did research on his own.
What’s important here is why he investigated in the first place. He wanted to know if Jesus was real because he saw something in the life of the Hispanic woman that he apparently had never seen before, or at least, had never paid attention to before. He saw Jesus through her.
As Christmas approaches in a few weeks, will people see enough of Jesus in us to make them want to find out for themselves if Jesus is real? Will they discover that Christmas is not about the gifts or the lights or the parties? Will they see that Christmas is about the baby born more than 2,000 years ago who came to bring eternal life and salvation to all who would believe in Him and confess Him as Lord and Savior.
I said I wouldn’t ruin the book for anyone but I can’t help myself. Besides, you probably guessed what he discovered. Strobel’s investigation led him to believe that the Christmas story is true. He wrote that he “finally came to the point where I was ready for the Christmas gift that Perfecta Delgado had told me about years earlier: the Christ child whose love and grace are offered freely to everyone who receives Him in repentance and faith. Even someone like me.”
Wow, what a testimony and what a story. My prayer is that we will be like that grandmother who had faith when she had nothing else, and she wasn’t about to keep it to herself. May others see Jesus in you — and in me — this Christmas season.