Just days before Christmas of 1970, a package was delivered to my home addressed to me. As a child, of course, I received very little mail, so to have a parcel arrive with my name on it was very exciting. I had started to tear open the brown paper to find out what was inside the package when my mother entered the room. “Oh no,” she said. “That is for Christmas. You cannot open it now.” Inside the package were brightly wrapped Christmas presents for my brother and me from my grandparents in New York.
Every family has its own holiday traditions. In my home, Christmas presents were carefully placed under the tree to await Christmas morning. Peeking, shaking, or even touching the packages before then was not allowed. There were several presents for me under the Christmas tree, but because I had come so very close to opening the one from my grandparents before I was stopped, my curiosity about that particular one provoked me.
Christmas morning finally arrived. I was handed the coveted package from my grandparents. After tearing off the wrapping paper, underneath I saw a gold colored box. As a small boy I was sure that anything in a shiny gold box must be a wonderful treasure! I pulled the cover off the box – and was terribly disappointed. Inside was a black vinyl covered copy of the Bible. I wanted a G.I. Joe action figure. I tossed the Bible aside along with some clothes I received as gifts, and eagerly sought for another present for me that I hoped would contain a toy.
I recall putting that Bible in the bottom drawer of a desk in the dining room where my mother used to sit and pay bills. I lifted out the thick, heavy North Woodward area Detroit phone book, placed the Bible underneath, and forgot about it for the next decade.
In the summer of my high school sophomore year, I trusted Christ as my Savior. I had no one to guide me, and knew very little. One thing I did know was that Christians read the Bible. I remembered that I had a Bible. I went to that desk drawer and discovered the gold box still where I had put it years before. I took out that Bible and began to read. I started where one would logically start – the beginning. I read Genesis and then Exodus. I found some familiarity in the story of Moses, having seen the Charlton Heston movie on television. I struggled with the second half of Exodus, the laws in Leviticus, and the rest of the books of Moses. But I persevered. In the Old Testament historical books, I read exciting stories and met fascinating characters with whom I was totally unfamiliar. I recall sprinting home from high school one afternoon to get to my Bible. I was reading in the book of II Samuel. King David was fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom, and I was in suspense as to what was going to happen. How my heart was touched when David lamented over the death of his wicked son. What great dramatic literature is to be found in the Bible! I read through the poetical books, the prophets, and on into the New Testament. I read through the entire Bible that year. There was much I did not understand. But there was so much more I learned. After completing the Bible, I started through it a second time.
I cannot say exactly why, but when I was fifteen I developed a habit of daily Bible reading. Since 1979, there have not been ten days in which I have not held a Bible in my hand and read. As poet Robert Frost famously wrote about taking the road less traveled by, for me “that has made all the difference.”
My grandparents had died and gone to heaven before I gave my heart to the Lord. But, oh the wonderful gift they left me! Many loving relatives have given me kind and generous presents. But nothing will ever equal that greatest of Christmas gifts. The Bible has been throughout my life “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105) To me its contents are indeed more to be desired than gold, and are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. (Ps. 19:10)