The Light of Christmas
t was a cold December night in Timisoara, Romania. In his book, The Body, Charles Colson tells the story about Laszlo Tokes who, two years earlier, became the minister of Timisoara's small Reformed Church. He preached the Christian gospel message clearly and boldly. Within two years his church's membership had grown to 5,000.
His success was not well received by the Communist authorities who stationed policemen, armed with machine guns, around his church on Sundays. They engaged thugs to harm him and took away his ration book so he couldn't buy food or fuel. In December of 1989 they came to arrest him and send him into exile.
But when the police arrived they were stopped by a wall of people blocking the entrance to the church. Members from various other churches joined in protest. Police tried to disperse the crowd but the people stood firm all day and into the night. In the crowd was a 19-year-old Baptist student, Daniel Gavra, who had a supply of candles. Shortly after midnight, he lit one and handed it to the person next to him. Then he lit another and another and another. Soon the darkness of that fearful night was shattered by the light of hundreds of candles. Imagine the feeling Pastor Tokes must have experienced when he looked through the window to see the warm glow on the faces of hundreds of friends surrounding him.
The people stayed all through the next day and the next night. Finally the police forced their way through the crowd and, breaking down the church door, bloodied Tokes's face and took him and his wife out into the night.
However, the people refused to be silent. What started as a religious protest became a political protest. They came en masse to the city square to demonstrate against the Communist government. Again Daniel Gavra passed out his candles.
The authorities, however, were infuriated. They brought in troops who were ordered to open fire on the demonstrators. Hundreds were shot and wounded including Daniel whose leg was blown off. But the people of Timisoara stood firm in their beliefs against the brutal onslaught seeking to break them down.
"By their example," Colson writes, "they inspired the entire population of Romania. Within days the nation had risen up and, Ceausescu, the bloody dictator was gone. For the first time in half a century, Romanians celebrated Christmas in freedom."
Daniel celebrated his Christmas in the hospital but to his pastor he said, "I don't mind so much the loss of a leg. After all, it was I who lit the first candle."1
And that one candle began a rebellion against a godless, dictatorial and bloody political system—a rebellion that changed an entire nation.
What a powerful reminder this Christmas of the Light that came into the world on another dark night in human history. It was this Light that inspired Pastor Tokes, David Gavra and their fellow Christian believers whose stand led to the freeing of Romania.
5. All articles on the ACTS International website are by Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise noted.
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