Geoffrey T. Bull, British missionary to Tibet, was cold, exhausted and hungry.
He had been seized by the communists following their takeover of China in 1949 and the future was bleak.
His captors drove him day and night across the frozen mountains until he despaired for his life.
Late one afternoon, he staggered into a small village where he was given an upstairs room, swept clean and warmed by a small charcoal brazier.
After a meagre supper, he was sent downstairs to feed the horses.
It was very dark and cold.
He clambered down the notched tree trunk to find himself in pitch blackness.
His boots squished in the manure and straw on the floor.
The fetid smell of animals was nauseating.
They sighed wearily, tails drooping, yet the missionary expected to be kicked at any moment.
Geoffrey, cold, weary, lonely and ill, began to feel very sorry for himself.
‘‘Then as I continued to grope my way in the darkness,’’ he later wrote, ‘‘it suddenly flashed to my mind. What’s today? I thought for a moment. In travelling, the days had become a little muddled in my mind.
‘‘Suddenly it came to me. It’s Christmas Eve. I stood suddenly still in the oriental manger.
‘‘To think that my Saviour was born in a place like this. To think that he came all the way from heaven to some eastern stable and what is more to think is that he did it for me.
‘‘How men beautify the cross and the crib, as if to hide the fact that at birth we resigned him to the stench of beasts and at death exposed him to the shame of rogues.
‘‘I returned to the warm, clean room which I enjoyed even as a prisoner, bowed to thankfulness and worship.’’
There will be many people this Christmas who will be undergoing hardships of various kinds.
If you are in those circumstances, my hope and prayer is that you may find the same peace and comfort that Geoffrey Bull found because of that extraordinary act that occurred more than 2000 years ago.
I would like to finish with my favourite blessing from the Bible: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and be gracious to you: the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
May you know his peace and joy this Christmas.
- George Deeble, Euroa Christian Fellowship