by Pastor Christopher
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15 (New International Version)
What a strange verse for a devotion at Christmas time, right? Well, in our case, it’s a perfect fit.
My wife and I had everything planned out—menus scheduled, airport runs planned, Christmas gatherings lined up to accommodate the schedules of out-of-town guests, etc. We had made the first pick up of the holiday schedule – daughter #2 (Abby) and granddaughter (Evvy) picked up at KCI and safely home.
Things were off to a great start. I heard giggling coming from the kitchen as my 10-month old granddaughter and I soared to a grand waltz to the Christmas music on the stereo. MorMor (Swedish for Grandma) and Abby got a kick out of watching Evvy spin and loop in her Grandpa’s arms. The Christmas tree lights and the village were the only light to the room.
Shortly after, Evvy was put down to sleep, Abby took a much welcomed shower after a long day of traveling and layovers, and I went down to my office in the basement to do finishing touches on my sermon in the morning. I smiled as I thought of the next two weeks as daughters shuttled in and out of town and other relatives came in to join them. “How wonderful it will be,” I thought, reviewing in my mind’s eye the coming events and possibilities.
A crashing noise on the steps abruptly pulled me back to reality. “Are you all right?” I called. From the staircase my wife said matter-of-factly, “I think I broke my ankle.” Those words changed everything. My wife’s diagnosis was dead on. Paramedics were called, first aid administered, a friend called to chauffeur me to the hospital (way to rattled to drive), a few things hastily packed and then a long night in the hospital. In the ER my wife moaned, “I’ve ruined everything!”
Was everything ruined? Everything was surely changed in that moment. Three days in the hospital and surgery were never on the Christmas schedule. But we got to meet some wonderful people – nurses and techs. Abby and Evvy spent time with MorMor in the hospital those first few days rather than at home. But Evvy was just as fascinated with the hospital room as she was with the tree at home.
MorMor’s menus will be set aside and everyone else will need to do the cooking this year. Her sister pushed up her travel plans so she and her husband could help. “When we returned from the hospital to be greeted by our own personal Florence Nightengale, I told my sister and brother-in-law that we always wanted to see more of them, thought maybe not like this.
And our personal tragedy pales in comparison to the lives shattered by the devastating events in Newtown, Connecticut. It is jarring to have the 24-hour news coverage of this tragedy drowning out the normal holiday TV fare. In some ways it is reminiscent of the old Simon & Garfunkel song, Silent Night/7 O’Clock News. Some may remember the lilting tunes from the guitar and voices of Simon & Garfunkel as the news gradually comes in from the background and overtakes the song.
These things are clear reminders that we live in a world that needs a Savior. We live in a fallen, broken world. One that God weeps over. The emotions we feel tearing up our hearts as our loved ones scream in agony in the ER or as a Mom and Dad rush to a fire station to learn the worst news possible, Molly will not be coming home with you today—God feels those emotions as He sees what we experience in this sin-torn world.
Christ our Savior was born more than 2,000 years ago in that little town of Bethlehem to set all things right, to remove sin, death and disease from our lives, and to bring us to a forever home that will never be marred by violence. Jesus is our Emmanuel—God with us, to walk along this dark world like a dear friend might walk along a darkened hospital corridor with you. The third verse of this Christmas carol is so fitting today:
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer/ Our spirits by Thine advent here/ Disperse the gloomy clouds of night/ And death’s dark shadows put to flight./ Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/ Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Our lives are but a vapor. Our plans are like shifting sand. Loved ones are lost before Christmas can come. The most joyous moments can be touched by heartbreak in this fragile world. “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” If not, we will rejoice in the Lord, who knows us thoroughly, loves us completely, and rules over all the universe.