A Christmas Revelation
From Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett
When Bernie was a missionary pilot, flying Bible translators for the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service in Peru, he and his wife Nancy were nostalgic for Christmas back home in Pennsylvania. It was their third Christmas away from home, but their three boys were excited as Christmas approached. To the boys, Peru was home. And the air around the mission center, with more than 300 translators and support personnel, was festive.
The week before Christmas, Bernie’s flight coordinator asked him to make an emergency flight to the Maranon River basin, carrying medical supplies to a local tribe where there had been an epidemic. He scheduled Bernie to return to Nancy and the boys on evening of December 23.
Bernie made the five-hour flight without incident. The old Aeronica plane with its bulky pontoons droned through the scattered clouds and safely landed on the river near the tribe’s village. He planned to spend the night at the village, sleeping in a jungle lean-to between two palm trees, and depart the next morning for home.
During the night, however, he heard rain splattering on the thatch roof over his head. When he awoke in the morning the entire river basin was covered with fog and rain. There would be no flying that day.
It rained all through the day and the next night. Christmas Eve was the same. The clouds were down to the tops of the trees. The rain fell steadily.
Bernie slipped on a poncho and trudged through the village down to the river’s edge. The plane was tied against the bank, rocking gently on the rain-splattered water. He crawled out on a pontoon and sat under the wing, feeling desperately sorry for himself.
It was Christmas Eve, and night was descending on the jungle. He knew there was no way he could get back home.
Back in Pennsylvania, his folks would have returned from church and his mother would be getting the turkey ready. Outside, the snow would be falling. The big tree, with the star on top, would be standing as always in its corner.
Back at the mission center, six hours away, Nancy and the boys would be sitting at home alone. They knew that he was stuck in the jungle because he had been able to radio them. He would not be with family for Christmas.
“Oh, God,” he moaned, “I’m in the wrong place.”
More than anything else he wanted to be home for Christmas.
Instead, he sloshed his way back to his hut in the little village. He shared some yucca with a couple of the village children, and read them the Christmas story out of the Bible, doing his best to translate it so they could understand.
That night, under his mosquito net, Bernie had a visitation from God—a midnight clear moment like the shepherds experienced on the hills outside of Bethlehem. There were no angels, and no bright light, but the clarity was there, and so was a voice. As he lay in his hammock, desperately homesick, he heard God say: “My son, this is what Christmas is all about. Jesus left heaven and on the Christmas morning He woke up in the ‘wrong place’—a stable in Bethlehem. Christmas means leaving home, not going home. My only begotten Son did not come home for Christmas—He left His home to be with you.
Bernie opened his eyes. Overhead, through the mosquito net, he could see the brown palm-thatch leaves that formed the ceiling of the lean-to. Beneath him was the hard-packed dirt floor. All around was the sound of gently falling rain.
But out there in the darkness were men and women, boys and girls, tiny babies—all part of the tribe. He was there, away from home Christmas Eve, because Jesus left His home on Christmas. Bernie was there because Jesus said, “As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”
During the night the rain stopped. On Christmas Day Bernie was able to take off from the river and by nightfall he was back with his loved ones. He went back knowing in an indelible way that Christmas is God’s ultimate missionary outreach. In the wrong place for Christmas, a silent night turned into a holy night.
From Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett. Copyright © 2005. Used by Permission of New Hope Publishers, NewHopeDigital.com.