On Christmas Eve 1944, a man known as “Old Brinker” lay dying in a prison hospital, waiting for the makeshift Christmas service led by fellow prisoners. “When does the music start?” he asked William McDougall, who was imprisoned with him in Muntok Prison in Sumatra. “Soon,” replied McDougall. “Good,” replied the dying man. “Then I’ll be able to compare them with the angels.”
Although decades earlier Brinker had moved away from his faith in God, in his dying days he confessed his sins and found peace with Him. Instead of greeting others with a sour look, he would smile, which “was quite a transformation,” said McDougall.
Brinker died peacefully after the choir of eleven emaciated prisoners sang his request, “Silent Night.” Knowing that Brinker once again followed Jesus and would be united with God in heaven, McDougall observed, “Perhaps Death had been a welcome Christmas visitor to old Brinker.”
How Brinker anticipated his death reminds me of Simeon, a holy man to whom the Holy Spirit revealed that “he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah” (Luke 2:26). When Simeon saw Jesus in the temple, he exclaimed, “You may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (vv. 29–30).
As with Brinker, the greatest Christmas gift we can receive or share is that of saving faith in Jesus.