Several years ago I met a young man who was called by God to a dangerous and unusual ministry. He worked with pastors in closed countries, taking them Bibles and study materials. He would travel to open countries, like Germany, and then slip across the border to places like Romania with money for bribes and suitcases of Bibles to give to those brave pastors who continued to spread the gospel even though they lived under threat of severe punishment for doing so. At the time I met him, this man’s primary work was in Romania.
I don’t know if you remember, or if you would ever have known, but the ruler of Romania in the 1980’s was a particularly cruel and anti-Christian man named Nicolae Ceausescu. 100 million people lived under his absolute control. He was so set against the church that even television antennas in the shape of crosses were banned. Churches in the country sat empty.
I asked my friend how we could pray for the work he was doing in Romania and he had a simple answer. He said, “Pray for the death of Ceausescu.” We did this and God was not long in answering. On December 21, 1989, the dictator stood before his people to address them as usual. This time he saw the anger and hatred in their eyes. They began to shout against him, in spite of the dangers they knew they faced. Ceausescu and his wife were angry and afraid. The next day they fled the palace.
The army finally turned against this evil man and he and his wife were captured. On December 25th, 1989, Christmas Day, Ceausescu and his wife were tried for the murder of 60,000 Romanians. They were quickly found guilty and were executed by a firing squad the same day. On that day, for the first time in many years, the church bells began to ring around Romania, proclaiming the death of the one the believers called, the Antichrist, and celebrating the birth of the one who was their true Savior and Lord.
And, ever since, this great song has had new meaning…
(I am particularly indebted to the book “Stories behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas” by Ace Collins which you can purchase here. These are not direct quotes, but a good deal of the information has come from that book, which I highly recommend. Some of the stories are from my research. The stories may or may not be accurate, partly because the legends have grown over the years, but I offer them as a word of blessing for the Christmas season.)