(December 22, 2002)
Judy Rachels has
ministered with her husband, T. Ray Rachels, for more than 35
years. She now serves as Women’s Ministries director for
the Southern California District, where her husband is superintendent.
Judy recently spoke with Scott Harrup, associate editor, about
the meaning of Christmas.
PE: What does
Christmas mean to you as a believer?
God forever made it possible for me to be in His family. He
came to my rescue as God in the flesh.
PE: When did you
discover that to be true in your life?
I grew up in a pastor’s home, so it discovered me before
I knew I had discovered it. I was receiving and processing that
message when I was just 3 and 4. By the time I was 5 and 6,
I was going forward at revival services to give my life to Christ.
The celebration of Christmas was always a highlight of the year
in our family. Annually, we donned bedroom slippers and bathrobes
as costumes to retell the Nativity story in our churches. As
simple and unsophisticated as that sounds, it was extremely
meaningful to those who participated and observed. I remember
being a part of the heavenly hosts a few times, and besides
the tinsel making my head itch, there was something wonderful
about proclaiming Jesus’ birth.
PE: What was Christmas
like during your early ministry?
began as youth pastors. Probably one of the most blessed Christmases
women know is their first one with their husbands. It was a
very profound thought for me, that I was now a wife and that
I stood on the edge of having a family and sharing with them
those truths I had received, embraced and lived by.
Was there ever a Christmas that brought you renewed hope during
a dark time?
of our children was really struggling. It was a difficult time
for all of us. That year we received a gift from a lady who
attended the first church we had pastored 15 years earlier.
She had given us modest gifts over the years, and this one came
with a note that said, “I think you’re going to
like this one, Pastor.” It was a cassette tape. When we
played it, we discovered it was an old tape of Ray preaching
in his office. This lady had asked him to tape a sermon so she
could use it in hospitals and nursing homes. As we listened,
we heard something in the background. It was the voice of our
2-year-old, who was softly singing “Jesus Loves Me.”
Dad had drawn baby-sitting duties while I was teaching school.
We needed to hear our child sing that song on that Christmas
Day. The Holy Spirit spoke peace to our hearts, reminding us
that the truth taught and lived out would yield a good harvest.
Sure enough, the day came when that child acted on the truth
of God’s love.
How would you share Christmas with me if I had no understanding
of its deeper meaning?
1945 my dad was in combat in the Philippines and we had gone
weeks without hearing from him. Christmas came and my mother
was the absolute picture of peace. She would tell me the Christmas
story at night and she would say, “There’s always
hope. There’s always peace. That is settled in our hearts
and this is the day we celebrate that it can be settled.”
We believe that God loved us so much that He would take care
of us, not only in this life but in the future. His grace was
born on Christmas. His gift of peace was born that day. And
it was a peace we could hold on to in wartime, when we did not
know what the mail would bring. It’s been something to
hold on to all of these years.
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