Friday, December 18, 2015


On December 25th, 1766, a son was born to shoemaker Samuel Evans and his wife, Joanna, in Llandysul, Ceredigion. The couple named the child Christmas. That boy would grow to be a tall, husky, bushy-haired preacher who would lead the spiritual revivals in late 18th- and early 19th-century Wales. But he had a hard road to the ministry he would pursue from Anglesey to Cardiff for over half a century.
            Evans’ father died when the boy was only eight or nine years old, leaving the family in poverty. Living with a drunken uncle, Evans received no schooling and by age fifteen, he still could not read or write. His illiteracy grieved him, and with dogged determination he set out to teach himself, plodding through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress with the help of friends. They also studied the Welsh Bible together: “We bought Bibles and candles, and were accustomed to meet together in the evening in the barn of Penyrallt, and thus in about one month I was able to read the Bible in my mother tongue.”
            At 18 he was converted under the influence of Presbyterian pastor David Davies, and soon began preaching in cottage meetings, having memorized published sermons. Without financial means to further his education, Christmas Evans went to England to earn money in the harvest fields. But in England he began to despair of his prospects in the ministry and nearly lost interest in spiritual matters altogether. The turning point in his life came when he was attacked by a mob, apparently provoked by Evans’ objection to their ungodly activities, and was beaten unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he found that he was blind in his right eye. This crisis awakened his faith and his determination to serve God. At age 20 he was baptized in Aberdare by Baptist pastor Timothy Thomas and joined that congregation.
            At the Baptist Association meeting in 1790, Evans accepted a call to minister in Caernarvonshire. He was ordained at Lleyn to serve five small Baptist chapels in that area. It was there that he met and married Catherine Jones, a member of one of the chapels. Though his preaching was well received, the ministry there took a toll on his health. So after some months in Caernarvonshire, Evans took a vacation to Pembrokeshire. Since he could not afford a horse, he traveled on foot, preaching in every town along the way. Crowds followed him from town to town, spreading revival throughout western Wales.
            Refreshed by his coastal tour, Evans threw himself back into the ministry in Lleyn, walking twenty miles every Sabbath to preach in various chapels and open-air meetings. Yet in spite of the many converts from his ministry, Evans was not pleased with the level of spirituality on the peninsula, and in 1792 he accepted a call to the island of Anglesey, where, for a salary of 17 pounds a year, he was to be responsible for ten chapels. On Christmas Day – his 26th birthday – he and Catherine crossed the Menai Strait to take up residence in a dilapidated cottage with a ceiling so low the six-foot-tall preacher could not stand up in it! His ministry there prospered, however, and within two years he saw 600 converts, and the ten chapels had doubled to twenty.
            In 1823, Evans’ beloved spiritual companion Catherine died, and the same year he developed an eye problem which necessitated treatment in Aberystwyth. By 1826, the number of chapels in Anglesey had increased exponentially and Baptist preachers numbered twenty-eight. Evans then moved to Caerphilly where 140 more converts were added to the Baptist congregations. From there he ministered in Cardiff, then back to Caernarvon, “where he contended with great difficulties from church debts and dissension.” (Armitage, The History of the Baptists, 612)  On a trip to Swansea to raise funds for the Caernarvon chapels, he suddenly fell ill and died on July 19, 1838. His last message was, “I am leaving you. I have labored in the sanctuary fifty-three years, and this is my comfort, that I have never labored without blood in the basin,” a reference to Exodus 12:22. In his last breath he voiced the words to an old Welsh hymn and passed into eternity.
            Christmas Evans is reputed by some to be the most dynamic preacher of “the golden age of itinerant preachers” in Wales. Historian John Davies takes note of Evans, along with Calvinistic Methodist John Elias and Independent William Williams (William o’r Wern) as the prominent preachers in the revivals that swept Wales in the early 1800s. (The History of Wales, 359) It is estimated that between 1801 and 1851, a new chapel was built on average every eight days. Many of those chapels were the result of the tireless ministry of Christmas Evans.

        First published in Ninnau: The North American Newspaper, November-December 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
(Isaiah 53:1 NKJV)

This time of the year there is a lot of talk about the birth of Jesus (though not nearly as much as in past decades!). The Baby Jesus, the helpless infant lying in a manger is a heart-warming image. The Babe in the manger is also less threatening, disturbing, than the adult Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the Son of God and Savior of mankind!

Isaiah prophesied not only of the coming of the Messiah, but also of the attitude of skepticism and outright disbelief of those to whom He came. “Who as believed our report?” Isaiah asks. The Apostle John witnessed the rejection of Jesus Christ by the Jewish nation under the instigation of their religious leaders, as well as the ignorant indifference of the world in general:

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. (John 1:10-11)

The following illustration comes from Matthias Ruether, principal of Brake Bible and Missions School in Lemgo, Germany.

Imagine being not prepared when the king arrives. That's rather tragic. But this is just what happened in a small restaurant in Ladenburg near Heidelberg, Germany, on August 22, 2011. Around noon, a friendly-looking married couple in their mid-sixties was seen standing in front of the "Gueldener Stern" ("Golden Star"), the oldest inn in town, studying the menu. The proprietress walked up to them and told them, somewhat gruffly, that they were at capacity. She went on to explain that a wedding reception was taking place that day, and not one table was to be had. Maybe they'd have better luck in the pizza restaurant next door. So the famished couple walked over to the Italian restaurant, much to the joy of the pizza baker, who realized at once who stood in front of him - namely, the Swedish royal couple, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia! ….

When the proprietress (of the inn) was asked about her faux pas, she was more than just a little uncomfortable about it. "I just don't have time to read magazines all day," she offered in explanation as to why she did not recognize the royal visitors. . .

Christmas reminds us that the King of the world came. Unrecognized by most, he became man in a small town in Israel. "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him" (John 1:11). Had the proprietress but recognized the Swedish royal couple, she would have been saved from major embarrassment. But there is a lot more at stake at Christmas. He who recognizes the Son of God will have eternal life. "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God," (John 1:12).  (Translated from German by Ilka Jones)

"I just don't have time to read magazines all day," said the proprietress.  But do folks today have even a few minutes of the day to read the Bible? Even those who profess to be Christians are too busy to read and study God’s Word. Surveys have indicated that only 10% of those who say they are evangelical Christians have read the Bible in its entirety. In Jesus’ day, even those who did read the Scriptures failed to recognize the Messiah when He was in their midst:  “You search the Scriptures,” Jesus challenged the religious leaders, “for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39)

Who has believed our report? asks Isaiah. Indeed. I challenge every reader today to read all of Isaiah 53, and ask yourself honestly: “Who does this chapter describe?” And pray that God’s Holy Spirit would reveal Christ to you. For Isaiah goes on to ask: And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?”

Unless and until God opens a person’s heart and mind to the truth, that person will remain in darkness and ignorance. The problem is not intellectual – it is spiritual. Pride keeps people from yielding to Christ. Jesus prayed,

 "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. (Matthew 11:25-26)

Have you believed the report, the message of Christ prophesied centuries before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem? Have you embraced Him as your Lord and Savior?