In 1548, a young man by the name of John Bradford was moved in his heart to follow God into the ministry. It was a difficult time for believers in England, and in 1553, John Bradford was imprisoned for publicly speaking his beliefs.
For two years, he was held prisoner in the Tower of London. During that time he made a statement, which has come to be a famous statement so often repeated by so many. One day, as a group of prisoners were being led to their execution, John Bradford remarked, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Even on the doorstep of death, John Bradford would not stop telling the message of Christ.
So on January the 31st, 1555, John Bradford was himself taken to be burned at the stake. As the crowd gathered to see his execution, they expected that Bradford would act like the others before—wailing, crying, and begging not to be killed. But as they began stacking the wood and kindling at his feet, something amazing happened. He didn’t cry or beg or wail, he looked at those in the crowd and asked forgiveness from any he had wronged, and then he forgave those who were wrongfully killing him.
John Bradford’s last words? He turned to the other man chained with him at the stake and said, “Be of good comfort brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night”. And the onlookers were amazed.
How was John Bradford able to endure? What made the difference in John Bradford’s life? He had been touched—touched by the Christ of Christmas.
“Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar,” then, two! Only two?
“Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”
“Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three…” But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?”
“Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?”
“Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice;
And going and gone,” Said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
”We do not quite understand
What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of the master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A ’mess of pottage,’ a glass of wine;
A game – and he travels on.
He is ‘going’ once, and ‘going’ twice,
He’s ‘going’ and almost ‘gone’.
But the Master comes and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the Master’s Hand”
Want to be touched, want to be changed? Want to be whole and fresh and new? Allow yourself to be touched right now – touched by the Christ of Christmas. Ask the Christ of Christmas, the Christ Child, to come into your heart.