Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Saviour, like a shepherd lead us..."

Do you know how it feels to be stuck in an airport on Christmas Eve? You'd like to be with family, but instead you're stranded with strangers. That's how passengers felt on Christmas Eve, 1876, as they travelled by steam boat up the Delaware River. Several had gathered on deck, looking out at the calm, starlit night when someone said, "Mr. Sankey is aboard!" and immediately there were cries of "let him sing for us."

Ira Sankey

Known nationally as "The Sweet Singer of Methodism," Ira Sankey (1840-1908) provided music for many of Dwight L. Moody's evangelistic crusades. Before he opened his mouth that Christmas Eve, he prayed, asking God what to sing. Instead of a holiday carol, this hymn came to his heart. "Saviour, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care. In thy pleasant pastures feed us. For our use thy fold prepare."

After hearing this song, a rough-looking man stepped forward to ask Sankey, "Did you serve in the Union Army? Can you remember doing picket duty on a moonlit night in 1862?" Sankey said yes.

"I was in the Confederate Army," the stranger said, "and I saw you standing your post. I raised my musket and took aim. You were at close range, clearly visible in the moonlight. I knew I would not miss. But suddenly you began to sing 'Saviour, like a shepherd lead us.' I took my finger off the trigger to listen, figuring I would shoot you afterward, but then I remembered how often my mother sang that song to me. When you finished, I could not raise my arm to fire my gun. I thought, 'The God who was able to save that man from certain death must be great and mighty.' I've wandered far and wide since then, but not yet found the Saviour."

Deeply moved, Sankey hugged the man who could have killed him, and that Christmas Eve the former soldier found the great and tender shepherd as his Saviour. A perfect Christmas gift!

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