Okay, okay, what kind of person wishes death at Christmas? I’m not some kind of gianormous Scrooge either. Let me explain.
Thirty-seven years ago, my father died a week before Christmas. December 18 to be precise. I still remember it like yesterday. I was in the 6th grade, school had just started, and it was one of those cloudy, grey Midwest mornings. My teacher, and the principal called me out of class. They looked grey themselves, concerned and they talked in hushed whispers.
My little sister was there. She was just 5 years old. We gathered our books, our coats, and were told that our neighbor was there to take us home. They never said why, but I knew.
The car ride home was long, and our neighbor and another friend sat up front. They talked of meaningless things, but glanced back at us nervously. They never said why, but I knew.
He’d been sick for a long time. Cancer. But it wasn’t just cancer. He’d been sick in his soul, the product of a rough childhood, a rough life. He was just 44 years old.
When we got home, my sister and brother were there. It still strikes me as odd to this day, but they were cleaning house. Cleaning house when my father had just died—it just didn’t seem to make sense. For my part, I carried the trash outside and burned it (we lived in the country and that’s what we did). It took a long time to take care of the trash, because I knew. And I cried, sobbed really, torrents of pain—of knowing.
It took me years to understand that loss, but in time I realized that God the Father wanted me to know Him more than even my earthly father. Peace.
That day redefined my life. I understood loss, and grief. And the memory of Christmas still holds that recollection. And yet, it strikes me that is part of the Christmas message. It is not all the warm glow of the Christmas manger we see on Christmas cards. It’s not green trees, lights and presents.
No, Christmas comes with the reality that the baby came to die. Sacrifice. Loss. Christmas is about redefinition. It’s about centering our life around death—of one who came to die for us. And yes, it’s about centering our lives around the promise of life—truly abundant life.
That’s the grand paradox and the wonder of God, the wonder of Christmas really: the gift of Christmas comes wrapped in a baby destined to die…for us.
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Published December 19, 2011
Topics: Lessons with Bill