Christmas is going to be different for us this year—radically different. In the past year we lost Janice’s father and her mother is now in the memory care unit of a residential facility (she suffers from severe dementia). My mother also passed away. All of this means we won’t be making the trip to the Hendrixson’s house or seeing my mother as we’ve done for the past 34 years.
I’m anticipating a certain emptiness in our get togethers with the rest of the family. A couple of familiar faces who have always been there will be gone. I don’t like it—but people dying and “going away” is the reality of life upon this earth. We can choose to live in denial of that (and many do), but it won’t change the truth of it.
It’s also true that we get comfortable with the status quo—especially when it’s to our liking and benefit. And when someone has always been around, even though we intellectually understand that won’t always be the case, it’s still difficult not to slip into a lazy, hazy mode of thought where we more or less talk ourselves into acting as if they’ll always be here.
I don’t mean to suggest that we should walk around holding our breath or be Henny Pennys waiting for the sky to fall, but I do think there’s something to the idea that we don’t become too comfortable and submerged in our present and pleasant realities. If the Scriptures teach us anything at all, it is that all of God’s blessings (including life itself), must be held by us with open hands rather than clenched fists. There really is a profound blessing in recognizing our transience (Psalm 39:4).
This is a truth we hold on to though, not because we are pessimists, but because we have hope. This is so because the world didn’t end with the birth of the Christ child—it began in a new and magnificent way. His life was lived fully and completely for His Father and when it was over (because it wasn’t God’s plan for Christ to live here forever any more than it is His plan for us to), Jesus was resurrected into a glorious new existence that we can only begin to imagine.
All of these truths are grasped by faith. When we live by faith we live with the recognition that our life and the lives of the ones we love will all come to an end one day. But for those who belong to Christ it will all be just the introduction to that which is life indeed.
That’s what I’m celebrating this year as I think about the birth of our Lord.
May we all live this coming year with hands held open by the hope we have in Jesus.