As part of our celebration of the birth of Christ, my wife and I have undertaken a reading of the Scripture each morning before our day gets underway. We started our reading five days ago, wanting to carry it out on a one chapter and day schedule, taking us into the twelve days of Christmas following Christmas Day itself as part of the old traditional English Christmas. This morning in our reading of Chapter 5, we came upon the famous story of Jesus directing the discouraged fishermen, some of his Fishers of Men, to shake off their disappointment of not catching any fish by pushing off into the sea again. Per his directions, they were rewarded with a huge volume of fish which required additional boats to handle. They had followed his instructions explicitly without question and they were rewarded.
As I was reading, I thought back upon my days some forty years ago when I was living and working near the Chesapeake Bay in St. Marys County, Maryland. A group of us who became close would frequently either go out after work on Friday or spend Friday evening on the base seawall fishing. It was a relaxing way to end the work week and it was beautiful. Sometimes we caught fish and sometimes we didn't, but it was always fun. But over time we came to know a nice older black man, a local who had served in the Navy during World War II and also was nearing retirement from his civil service position with the Navy at Patuxent River where we worked. We began a regular conversation and the nice man would give us pointers about fishing off the seawall. We listened, but were never successful to the degree that he was and others who came regularly were also enamored with his unique talent. He kept giving pointers, but finally would just say that if we kept up our efforts, we'd figure it out.
A few weeks later, one of the other fishermen who was a regular on Friday night told us that the old man was a devout Christian and every night before we got there (he started fishing early), the old man said a prayer and quoted that very chapter of Luke asking for God's help. We also found out he was very sick and was facing a very serious health problem, but he never showed it or spoke of it and they warned us not to mention it to him. It wasn't long before we saw him no more and one of his friends told us he had passed on. But what a great example of joy and happiness he displayed in his love of the Lord. Was that his secret ingredient? Well, I'll never know but as I have grown older and find myself much more in tune with what I believe God wants of me, it is certainly comforting. So, I'll just believe that yes, that was God's answer of the prayer of a devoted old man. Thanks be to God.