My Story: Going home for Christmas


Christmas 1966 changed my life. I was attending my church college, Graceland University, in Iowa. Christmas break was about to start. But I wasn’t in the mood for the joyful festivities and celebration of the birth of Jesus. I felt only anger and confusion.

My brother George was in Vietnam. I couldn’t in good conscience celebrate Christmas when he was experiencing war. I felt betrayed by God’s promise of peace through Jesus. Didn’t God come to us in human form to show us the way to peace on Earth?

But here we were still clinging to an empty dream while people were suffering and dying. How could God allow such devastation to continue? How could a God of love abandon us in our time of need?

I didn’t want to go home. I called to say I wasn’t coming. “Gil,” my mother tearfully said, “I can’t be without both sons right now. George doesn’t have a choice. You do!” Her pain cut through my self-absorption. I realized how my selfish actions would cause further hurt to my family.

Changing my mind at the last minute meant a chaotic journey from Iowa to Rhode Island. I caught a ride to Buffalo, N.Y. and was let off in a snow storm. I hitchhiked to New York City. The driver was drinking. I was scared, but we managed to get to Harlem safely around 2 a.m.

I asked a taxi driver to take me to Grand Central Station. I was surprised when he stopped at an apartment building, leaving me alone in the taxi. People walked by and leaned on the taxi. I was anxious.

With the Civil Rights Movement in full swing and race issues at a boiling point, I was very aware of being a white guy in black neighborhood. Was the driver setting me up to get robbed? Would those walking by think I was prejudiced? What if the driver didn’t return? With growing anxiety, I prayed to God to forgive my unfounded fears. But I was about to run after a passing police car when the taxi driver returned.

Exhausted, I sat on an empty bench in the station awaiting the next train in five hours. A homeless woman appeared in front of me, screaming that I was in her spot. I moved to some phone booths, trying to block myself in one of them to rest. But people kept banging on the door wanting to check the coin returns. Resigned to walk around the station, the next thing I knew someone tried to lure me to their apartment. By then very short-tempered, I scared the person off.

Finally arriving home, I still didn’t want to celebrate Christmas. What good was the idea of God incarnate in a baby born in a stable compared to the realities of war and suffering?

I stayed up late after my family went to bed. On T.V. was a live documentary of our troops in Vietnam celebrating Christmas. Maybe I might see my brother. Instead, what I saw began melting away my fear and anger. American GIs — black, white, Latino — were sharing love and joy with orphaned Vietnamese children. I was touched by their compassion. Soldiers on the front line sang Christmas carols, and shared their packages of goodies.

As tears ran down my cheeks I experienced Christmas, being filled with joy and hope in a world of violence and unrest. I felt the promise of Jesus’ peace. I felt the warmth, love, and the overpowering embrace of God’s healing spirit.

Christmas ’66 was powerful, assuring me that Christ’s mission is what matters most in my life. Christ’s mission of joy, hope, love and peace makes a difference in our world.

Christ invites all to experience peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit even amidst life’s difficulties and suffering. God is so generous and loving. Let’s express our gratitude by being living disciples of Jesus Christ, offering ourselves for each other.

May your Christmas be filled with Christ’s assurance, blessing, and healing peace.



Giáng sinh năm 1966 đã thay đôi cuộc đời tôi. Tôi đang tham dự trường Đại học nhà thờ của tôi, Đại học Graceland, ở Lowa. Nghỉ lễ Giáng sinh sắp bắt đầu. Nhưng Tôi đã không nghĩ tới lễ hội chúc mừng và kỉ niệm ngày sinh của Jesus. Tôi đã chỉ cảm thấy tức giận và sự bối rối.

George của tôi đã ở Việt Nam. Tôi không thể trong tâm trạng tốt chúc mừng Giáng sinh khi anh ấy đang trải qua chiến tranh. Tôi đã cảm thấy bị lừa dối bời lời hứa hòa bình của Chúa do Jesus. Chúa đã không tới bên chúng ta trong hình dạng con người để chỉ cho chúng ta cách đi tới hòa bình trên Trái Đất?.

Nhưng ở đây chúng tối đang bám vào một giấc mơ trống rỗng trong khi con người đang chịu đau đớn và cái chết. Làm như thế nào mà Chúa có thể cho phép như sự tàn phá này tiếp tục? Làm như thế nào một tình yêu của Thiên Chúa bỏ rơi chúng ta trong thời gian cần thiết?.

Tôi không muốn đi về nhà. Tôi đã gọi để nói Tôi đã không muốn đên."Gil, mẹ tôi vừa khóc, vừa nói," Mệ không thể ở khi không có cả con trai ngay bây giờ. George đã không có sự lựa chọn. Anh làm." Nỗi đâu của mẹ đã làm tôi cảm nhận thấy. tôi đã nhận ra những hành động ích của tôi sẽ gây ra thêm nỗi đâu nữa cho gia đình tôi.

Sự thay đổi suy nghĩ của tôi vào phút cuối nghĩa là một cuộc hành trình hỗn loạn từ Iowa tới Đảo Rhode Tôi đã bắt một chiếc xe đến Buddalo, N.Y và đã đi trong một cơn bão tuyết. Tôi đã quá giang tới Thành phố N.Y. Người lái xe đang say rượu. Tôi đã sợ hãi nhưng chúng tôi đã kiềm chế để tìm tới Harlem an toàn khoảng 2 sáng.

Tôi đã đề nghị người lái xe ta xi đưa tôi đến Grand Central Station. Tôi đã rất ngạc nhiên khi anh ấy đã dừng tại một căn hộ đang xây, để tôi một mình trên taxi. Mọi người đi ngang qua và dựa người trong taxi. Tôi đã băn khoăn.