Max Furgenson was an old farmer who still farmed 40 acres of land a mile outside town. It would be his last Christmas, his doctor had said as much, given the illness he had. Max wanted to make a difference this Christmas. He’d loved God as long as he could remember, and always sought to do what he figured God would like him to do. Max, however, didn’t see himself as a very good talker, most people saw him as a quiet guy. But now, this being what he figured to be his last Christmas, he wanted the townspeople to know what was on his mind and heart.
He got the idea in late October. The town counsel had given him permission in their November meeting. On the afternoon of the first Sunday in Advent he stood in front of the huge haystack he had hired a couple of men to bring from his farm to the center of the town square, 64 bales of hay ripped apart and piled high. He was pleased with the large gathering, probably a couple of hundred townsfolk he estimated, all curious as to what he was up to.
He cleared his throat and began. “This is going to be a different kind of Christmas for our town, at least if I have my way. Hidden in this haystack is a needle. You’re invited to search for the needle in the haystack. There’s a reward, $10,000 for the finder. It’s going to be organized. I’ve asked our town clerk to schedule 10 of you at a time to search an hour for the needle. The hay you sift through goes in one of those baskets over there, and when you’re done with your hour of sifting, you add it to a discard pile by that post over there. You can sign up for your hour now or at city hall during the hours they’re open.”
Max held up his hand, sweeping it around at the crowd, “And don’t get any ideas about bringing your own needle! I’ve had a jeweler etch a tiny little mark on the needle so that I’ll know it’s the real thing. Henry, our head cop, and his deputies will be making regular rounds past here, 24/7, to make sure it’s all going smoothly. The last hour anyone will be assigned to find the needle in the haystack is Christmas Eve day at noon, or sooner, if the haystack’s been all sifted through. I’m asking the finder to keep it a secret, coming out to my farm and informing me when you’ve found it. The big reveal will be Christmas Eve day at 3:00 pm, right here, where I’ll announce the winner and hand the person the $10,000 check.”
It was an enthusiastic response by the townspeople, the stack was sifted through by several hundred people, 10 per hour. Three days before Christmas Eve Max let it be known that the needle had been found. Anticipation ran high, and about 500 people were gathered on Christmas Eve at 3:00 pm.
Max looked around at the crowd, then slowly held up the needle between his thumb and index finger. “Here it is! The winner is Jeff Higgins.” Jeff stepped forward with a big grin, took the check from Max and shook Max’s hand.
Max looked out over the crowd, paused, took a deep breath and started to give his prepared, short speech. “This universe is a big place. They say there are billions of galaxies with billions of stars in each. From way out there, a gazillion miles away, to find earth would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Some feel this makes us on this little white, blue, and brown speck of cosmic dust we call earth insignificant. The opposite is true. Christmas is all about God coming to earth, being born as one of us, God in human flesh. He came to save us, to be our Savior. Out of this huge universe God came here to earth. He found the needle in the haystack. He found us! And of the 8 billion people on the earth He knows about you, again, like finding a needle in a haystack. I want us to remember this Christmas as a needle in the haystack Christmas. This Christmas let yourself be found by Him!”
Max concluded, “So I leave you with the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Take it personally! “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”