My friend’s husband died this week. Or do we say passed away? I’m not used to this kind of thing, the losing of people when they’re young and their kids are babes and their now-widows haven’t even hit their thirties.
No matter how you try to type that, it doesn’t read easy.
Christmas is two days away and he’ll be watching it all from the throne of Heaven, rather than the couch of his home.
Cancer, it ate away his body until there was nothing more with which to fight. The sickness took his life, robbed his wife of a thousand dreams and their children of memories never to be.
Out of the shattered hearts, there rises a fragrance of hope.
Christmas, it can get buried in present buying and decorating, in the flurry of traditions and favorite dishes and stories of a jolly man going into strange homes.
But that is not Christmas.
Neither is it just a time of good feelings and family togetherness and charity towards all.
Otherwise, what do you say to a 6-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 2-year-old who have just lost their daddy? There’s no good feeling there and the family will never be together again this side of Heaven. Or what do you say to the orphan child living in a poverty-wrecked country? The red suit man conveniently fails to visit him each year, no matter how good he is.
Christmas is mercifully about more and also, so much less.
Better than an imagined fat man sliding down a chimney, God wrapped Himself in human flesh and took on our limits so that we could know His limitless love.
More than the magic of eight reindeer flying is how heaven broke through one dark winter night, piercing the world with starlight and that infant God-cry.
There weren’t strings of lights or piles of beautifully wrapped presents. The decorations were nothing more than clean straw and a bright light to show the way to a helpless babe. A babe born to a teenage mom in an out of the way town. Nothing memorable, nothing very joy-inducing when you looked at it.
That simple, ordinary, probably quite dirty scene sliced the timeline of history. Every one of us forever counts our days as after that moment, even if we refuse to embrace the truth of that virgin birth bringing God to earth.
When that God-child Christ took his first ragged breath of this world, the clock started counting down on Death’s final claim.
Yes, Death would soon destroy the small boys in that town to avenge a King’s jealousy.
And yes, Death would use famines and floods and corrupt leaders to claim millions more afterward.
Death would even take my friend’s husband.
Death no longer has the final say. Thirty-three years from that night somewhere in the hills of Israel, that God-child would climb a hill as a man, carrying the weight of all our ugly. If his first cry set Death running, His last silenced it forever.
Three days later, His resurrection would bring us victory.
That is why, my friend with the gone-ahead husband, she leaks hope in the midst of her tears. She exhales hope with each trembling, shuddering breath. It is hope she holds to as the landscape of her world shifts under her feet.
Hope that this world is fleeting.
Hope that Death, though painful, is not permanent.
Hope that her husband is finally healed.
Hope that one day she too, will be Home and there will be both her husband and her Beloved, waiting for her.
Bring your burdens and your discouragement, your broken hearts and unanswered questions to a tiny manger in a not-so-flashy stable and find the joy you seek, the strength you need and our Hope in a weary world.
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,