one to one
The Day After Christmas
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and grandkids!
It was December 26, 1990. The cold, wintery afternoon was tolerable only because of the brilliant sunshine. A few hours earlier, I conducted a funeral service for an elderly church member. Now, I stood at the graveside of a friend. I was joined by four family members and another minister—a friend of the family.
I struggled to find the appropriate words to comfort the small company of mourners. Practically every circumstance surrounding the scene was sad…the deceased was a young man in his early 30s who he had experienced an excruciating death; only six people were at the committal service, and it was the day after Christmas.
Rather than dwell on the negative, I spoke of the providential events that caused our paths to intersect a few years earlier. Somehow he managed to survive the turbulent teenage years of his life in the mid-1970s. Drawn partly by the void in his life and the influence of his mother, this young man began attending the church where I ministered.
Over time, we developed a friendship and I eventually had the privilege of leading him to Christ. The transformation of his life was nothing short of incredible. His winsome personality, uniquely infectious laugh, and passion to grow in his faith endeared him to our church family.
In the months following his conversion, we faithfully met for breakfast once each week for Bible study and prayer. It was refreshing for me to watch this newborn babe in Christ grow in grace and knowledge by leaps and bounds.
Sometime later, I accepted the pastorate of a church in another community. I stayed in contact with my young friend. He remained faithful in his commitment to the Lord and in church attendance.
One Sunday evening he showed up unexpectedly for service at our church. After the congregation left, we sat in my office and enjoyed a lengthy visit, reminiscing over old times. Finally, before saying goodbye, he asked if I would pray for him. Recently he had undergone a series of medical tests. He had an appointment with the doctor the next day to review the results.
Sensing his concern, I offered to meet him for breakfast the next morning and then accompany him to the doctor’s office. He seemed thankful and relieved.
We met that Monday at a restaurant and enjoyed a lively discussion about the Bible over breakfast. Later, we made the short trip to the medical facility for his appointment. I had been sitting in the waiting area for only a few minutes when he emerged, ashen faced with a piece of paper in his hand. Without saying a word he walked out of the office into the hallway. I followed.
As I closed the door behind me, I saw him leaning against the wall, weeping. I placed my hand on his shoulder and softly asked, “What’s wrong?” He handed me the piece of paper. In the physician’s handwriting, I read the words—HIV positive. My friend had AIDS.
In the days and weeks that followed, he physically wasted away as the disease ravaged his body. Understandably, he struggled with guilt from his past and grappled over accepting God’s unconditional forgiveness. By the grace of God, he held tenaciously to his faith.
He died on Christmas Eve. The next day I celebrated the birth of Christ with my family. But this celebration was different. I had a deeper appreciation for things I had taken for granted… like my wife, children, health, and ministry. I was reminded that God sent His Son to give us hope—not just on December 25th, but on the day after Christmas too.