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The Conditions of Christmas

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Britisher Geoffrey T. Bull, missionary to Tibet, was cold, exhausted, and hungry. He had been seized by Communists following their takeover of China in 1949, and his future was bleak. His captors drove him day and night across frozen mountains until he despaired of 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.

2. After a meager supper, he was sent downstairs to feed the horses. It was very dark and very 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. The horses sighed wearily, tails drooping, yet the missionary expected to be kicked any moment. Geoffrey, cold, weary, lonely, and ill, began to feel sorry for himself.

“Then as I continued to grope my way in the darkness,” he later wrote, “it suddenly flashed into my mind. What’s today? I thought for a moment. In traveling, the days had become a little muddled in my mind. Suddenly it came to me. ‘It’s Christmas Eve.’ I stood suddenly still in that oriental manger. To think that my Savior was born in a place like this. To think that He came all the way from heaven to some wretched eastern stable, and what is more to think that He came 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.

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