A Second Chance

Thursday, December 24, 2015
Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Silent Night Holy Night"1 (Lyrics)

Romans 12:15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (NKJV)

I was eleven years old in Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Many Hungarians used that brief slit in the Iron Curtain to flee to the west.

For domestic as well as political reasons, my 17-year-old brother took off in the middle of a November night that year. A few days later, my parents and I left everything behind and headed west in search of my brother and a better life.

From Austria, we were shipped to England into holding camps until our turn would come to be transported to our final destination. All along, we had a search request filed with the Red Cross concerning the whereabouts of my brother, but no word came. The possibilities ranged from being shot, to being captured and imprisoned, or to having escaped and been shipped to some faraway place like Australia.

On Christmas Day, refugee families from the military base where we stayed were paired up with English families so that we could have Christmas dinner in a home rather than in the army barracks.

We were taken to the house of a kind teacher and her teenage daughter. It was a very quiet meal, since, except for a word or two, we didn't speak each other's language. In addition to the meal, they offered us various gifts. I ended up with the daughter's stamp collection. Mostly through sign language, we told them that what we really wanted was to telephone my uncle in Budapest to see if he had any word about my brother. Generously, the teacher arranged the long distance call. Through tears, my uncle revealed to us that my brother was in Blackpool, England, just a couple of hours from us. Our hosts ended up crying with us.

As it turned out, instead of going to the coal mines of Blackpool, my brother came with us to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I wish that I could say that from that day on we became one big happy family, but at least that Christmas, we were given a second chance.

1 Peter 4:9 – Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. (NKJV)

Perhaps God will cross your path today with someone who would appreciate your sharing the hospitality of your home in the Spirit of Christ and Christmas.

Prayer: Dear Lord, bless those who provide shelter to the homeless in their greatest hour of need. Enable the receivers to pay forward these gifts of generosity. And dear God, we thank You for second chances freely offered to us through the Lord of second chances, Your Son, Jesus Christ, Who was once a refugee Himself, and Who understands our need for a new beginning, not only at Christmas, but through all the seasons of our lives. Help us not to squander those chances, but rather to use them to Your glory. In His name, we pray. Amen.

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About the author:

Zoli Hartai <zolhartai@gmail.com>
Nestleton, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:


    Very touching Zoli.

    Well done, write again, Merry Christmas.

    Thank you for your story of hope and restoration. Have a blessed Christmas.

    Thank you for sharing your family’s experience and this devotional with us. Blessings.

    Dear Zoli,
    I really enjoy your devotional “A Second Chance”.
    Thank you.

    Hi Zoli
    Great devotional. Thanks for sharing.
    Have a wonderful Christmas.

    Dear Zoli:
    Thank you for your very inspiring story! God bless you this Christmas with joy and peace and may He also bless your years ahead.
    Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.

    My thank you for sharing your Second Chance Story. We are so happy that you and your family chose to come to Canada. Needless to say how God’s plan for your life developed with your children. God Bless you and your family.
    A Blessed Christmas we wish you.

    Zoli – I am crying. The words of your devotional touched my heart thinking of the anguish you, and your family suffered.
    Sadly, there can be discontent within families even when no particular hardship has caused it.
    Thankfully, you are safe (I remember the 1956 uprising and the reports we received in England – my homeland).
    War is a terrible thing. It is always the innocents – the ordinary folk – who suffer the most.
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    May God bless you abundantly this Christmas season and through the years ahead.

    Dear Zoli Hartai,
    I am thankful that God did great things for your family. And I pray that you will trust him and pray for more great things for the future, for I read, in your writing, a hint of something being not what your highest hopes and desires would have.
    In my family connections, there are some old accusations not healed yet.
    Let us pray for one another’s families, and for all of the families and nations of the earth, that whatever is not as it could be, will be straightened out “and the rough places a plain– ( Isaiah 40:4) We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Great Healer (Acts 28,27), the Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6).
    Thank you for writing, Zoli.

    Thank you for this touching reminder to care for others. Unless one has been in this sort of situation it is so easy to overlook.
    Bless you.

    Hello dear Zoli,
    Hope all is well with you and your family across the world. I got the chance to read an impressive for you today. It came to me from one of the groups that normally sends short, inspirational stories around the world and it was about Hungarian Revolution in 1956 when you fled to Australia, while your older brother was somewhere else and how God brought you all together. I was deeply impressed by how God is under control and nothing is called coincidence in His vocabulary. Life is a shipwreck, we must not forget to sing in the lifeboat. Preserving the incident for the whole world in ink to read, you were, in fact, singing in the lifeboat and celebrating your lives on behalf of your family. God is the circle whose center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere. Security is not the absence of fear, it is the presence of God. May your Christmas of this year be full of joy, peace, happiness, blessings, and gratitude for what you have.
    (Saudi Arabia)

    Thanks for sharing your story. You may never know how far your sentiments go or who hears the hope implied, but it is sufficient to know that we can cast all our cares on Him and know He hears us.

    I wanted to tell you that your devotional spoke to me deeply. The second chance is so important. Your story is honest, I am glad you could be reunited with your brother, and I am glad there were those who shared hospitality with you and your family at Christmas so many years ago. I appreciate the honesty with which you told the story, sharing the joy of reunion and reality of living as a family that may not have always been perfect, but could be thankful for what had been given.
    May you be blessed as you have blessed others.


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