My father died a week before Christmas. I was just 12 years old. My mom was left with six kids to raise and little income to make ends meet. We buried him three days before Christmas—December 22.
It somehow seemed fitting that at the graveside the clouds seemed to close in—dark and gray—and offered the first snowfall of the year.
I know my story is not unique. For some, Christmas is a dark and lonely time. A time of loss. Even now, I’ve got a friend whose wife just passed after a battle of cancer. Still another friend has suffered through years of chronic pain. And still another, they’ve waited for years for a child.
I remember that for the funeral service for my father, our family had to hustle around for something that would resemble funeral attire—slacks, dress shirts and ties. We must’ve looked like the lost rag-tag group that we were. And certainly, that look matched that part of my soul that now seemed cast adrift, wondering and wandering.
For much of the visitation, I sat with my siblings as so many adults walked by with only a sad look on their faces. I’m sure they thought, “How is this family ever going to make it?”
But to this day, I still remember that my baseball coach, Dennis Wessling, showed up at the funeral. He’d only coached me for one year, but he strode in purposefully, greeted my mom and walked up to me. He said just three words, “Chin up, Willie!”
His words were a blessing. Just those three words. They gave me hope. Indeed, I lifted my chin. In the years that followed, our family started to come together. The coldness of Christmas melted to a new warmth of gathering and peace, a salve to the wounds.
As I consider Christmas in the year 2021, I’m reminded similarly that while the dark clouds may gather with only the promise of a half-hearted snow, there is a light that transcends. Not so long ago, a young man and a young woman struggled with their own questions of doubt and belonging. Pregnant and traveling—they must’ve matched the ragtag look of my own family.
And with the birth of this child, the Messiah, the Savior, the name: “Emmanuel—God with us!” These words are the blessing to the world: God. Is. With. Us. They are the words that provide peace, hope and restoration. For today and for tomorrow.
Indeed, chin up, everyone—God is with us. Merry Christmas.
Photo by Hert Niks on Unsplash
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Published December 10, 2021
Topics: Lessons with Bill