Perhaps you’ll agree that there is something about December that brings on the deep emotions of years gone by. The sights, sounds and smells all point toward thoughts of what once was and hope-filled expectation for what will be.
For me, one of the primary memories that comes to mind each year is the last Christmas I was able to spend with my mom as she faded in health through her five-year battle with cancer. It was Christmas break during my sophomore year of college and the eight-hour drive home was filled with more anticipation than ever. Finally arriving to the open arms of my mom and the smells of a baking pie in the oven had never been sweeter. Though unspoken, we all peacefully knew this would be our last Christmas together. I would in fact realize later that she had been saving all of her final strength for that final time together with our family.
Outside of ongoing friendly banana bread and cookie drop-by-deliveries from family and neighbors, we spent many hours over those special days sitting around the family room fireplace next to the Christmas tree deep in quiet conversation and reflection. It was a safe time where every question I had ever wanted to ask was asked and answered. Any thought I had ever wanted expressed was shared. There would be no regrets.
Nonetheless, there was still an uneasy tension. The realities of terminal illness were all around us as the cancer that had been invading her body in other places had now begun to attack her lungs. From pain medications on the kitchen counter to breathing treatment paraphernalia in the bathroom, as well as her pale complexion and sunken disposition, the reminders were very visible. Add to that, she would frequently face gagging coughing spells that would bring all things to an uncomfortable halt. It was there that I was reminded that dying isn’t easy.
Yet in the midst of that tension, one very cold Minnesota night (seriously it was -20 degrees!!) we heard the surprising sound of many footsteps in the crunchy snow approaching the front door of our house in the woods outside of town. As my Dad and I opened it in welcome, we could hardly believe our eyes and ears! In the bleak midwinter of that star-filled night, a chorus erupted “Hark the herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn King!” You see, the entire church choir had come to carol at our house!
To witness the joy on my mom’s lit-up face as this gift of love and faith from her friends was given is something I will never forget. I had to believe it was a moment not unlike the lonely, depressed shepherds who, on one unexpectedly still night so long ago, were greeted with the greatest news the world would ever know. As the heavenly chorus once filled the sky and pierced the darkness, so it was in our family room that cold night, amidst the realities of life and eminent death. Those songs of a God in Jesus who had come to save a broken world would take on a fresh and deeper meaning for me. Christmas, that is, the coming of Christ into this world, is what binds us together to see a life worth living both now and forever. It is a perspective that moves from what was to an absolute assurance of what will be in eternity.
I’m very much looking forward to celebrating that same assurance with you again this year! Click here to see our Christmas weekend worship schedule.
In Jesus I am yours,