Authored by Michael Basham (a guest contribution)
I know this won’t sound like the typical Christmas story. Asian Christmases are rarely typical, though, and as an American living abroad, the tendency is to feel that for all intents and purposes, Christmas doesn’t even exist on this side of the planet.
I was on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, and I’d had spent my meager allowance as an exchange student on little Christmas presents for my Japanese host family there—only to find that on that bright and early Christmas morn, everyone had left. It was like the Grinch had stolen Christmas! No, they were merely celebrating Christmas in the traditional Japanese way—by going to work and school as usual. I spent the day walking around this wintry little farm town and playing some tunes on the piano in their living room. The family soon returned home, though, and we ended up going out for a very “traditional” Christmas sushi dinner! What I didn’t know was that very soon I would find an amazing spiritual Christmas present that would change my life forever.
I’ve never considered myself to be a very spiritual person, and that’s why experiences like these always rock my world greatly. However, I will have to backtrack to a time just before this Christmas so you can better understand what this encounter meant to my own personal journey with God. Japan can be a very busy place, and when you live in a dorm smack dab in the middle of Tokyo with your high-tech cell phone (this was years before the first iPhones were released, and Japanese phones were light years ahead of American ones) constantly keeping you connected to everyone in your school or friends you’d meet, you rarely ever find time to get quiet with the Lord. Anyhow, in spite of all this busyness, I had stumbled upon G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, which C. S. Lewis had attributed to helping him want to become a Christian.
During the months leading up to that lonesome Japanese Christmas, I had been poring over the pages of The Everlasting Man, reading and uncovering the amazing overview of world history and feeling like I was coming to know God and His plan for mankind in a brand-new way. This book made me thirst to know the secrets of the world like I never had before, and it all culminated in one night, after the worst Christmas dinner ever.
So back to this present Christmas I’m telling you about: my host family treated me to an incredibly expensive sushi restaurant, but after eating a little bit too much, I returned home with a horrible pain in my stomach. I remember it was a very cold night, and after puking my guts out to the point that I could barely move on my bed, my body became very hot. This sounds crazy, but here is my theory: The balance of being burning hot in a freezing cold room and not being able to move (or else I would have to return to the toilet once more!) generated a launch pad for the Spirit to enter into my life.
I lay in the dark, unable to move, and began to pass the time meditating. Starting from Genesis, I pictured what it must have been like to be in the Garden of Eden. As I did this, I started to see colors, feel sensations, smell smells, and picture this massive waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. In my mind’s eye I began seeing the events after that: the fall of humanity, Noah’s flood, and the days of Abraham and the patriarchs, down through the establishment of Israel and the kings. Then I saw in my mind’s eye the events of Jesus’s day, with His birth and ministry and death and resurrection, and then this continued on through to the times of the early church. Basically I saw the entire Bible flash before my eyes from cover to cover, and I could see it very clearly.
And thanks in part to having recently read The Everlasting Man, I started to become curious about the church’s history between the Bible and today. I asked God to fill in those missing gaps for me. I felt as though my body was floating above earth and I could see the kingdoms of the world 2,000 years ago, and the consequent rise and fall of other kingdoms, up until this past century and all of the terrible wars our world has been through this past 100 years. I was only 20 years old, but with my limited knowledge of the Bible and history, it was like I could see the whole experience of the human race in a sort of outline. The dark spots which I was still unaware of were waiting for me to come and discover them.
I always felt inadequate and uneducated in areas of history and geography, but now for the first time instead of feeling dumb and helpless, I felt I had, through this vision, seen the places and events I wanted to learn about. I realized that to have an understanding of these things was attainable, and I felt like a child on Christmas morning about to open his presents—and that all the keys of knowledge were out there waiting for me!
After this epiphany, things started to come together, not only in areas of learning and studying, but in my own personal life. God began to move pieces into place to where His destiny for my future would be clearly shown and a totally new adventure would begin. My worldview was about to shift and change even more. That night I also learned that He can show you pictures in your mind’s eye, as it says “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”1
If you are interested in receiving visions from the Holy Spirit, it’s not something you need to be a guru to do. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”2 You just have to ask and find yourself a quiet place (although I wouldn’t recommend food poisoning to force yourself to slow down!), and then just see what happens. It may not always come on demand, but I would say that nine times out of ten, if you are serious about receiving from the Lord, He will answer you.
So for me this was the ultimate Christmas present, although not at all typical. I began to learn that the Bible is not only true, but is a gateway into the spiritual dimension. There is a tremendously good verse that sums up this Christmas present in its entirety, and I recommend reading the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 2 to grasp the complete idea: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”3
1 Colossians 3:2 NIV
2 Matthew 7:7 NKJV
3 1 Corinthians 2:9–10 NKJV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International