I was with Vicki Crowe in her home later in the evening after Larry died of a heart attack some years ago. After a while, one of the family arrived – Larry’s brother Randy, who is a pastor in WV – and the first thing he said was, “Oh Vicki, we’re getting to have more people over there than we have here!” (His daughter had recently been killed in a car crash.) And as we know, not long after, Vicki went “over there” as well. That occurred during this season just six years ago, and oh how I miss that precious friend!
If you live long enough, the statement is true – you have more family in heaven than you have on the earth. A number of us this year on the ministry staff will be missing some folks around the celebrations of family gatherings. I’m not sure when I’ve seen a holiday season where there is so much pain in so many families. Just days ago, a family from my former church in New Jersey had a healthy college senior daughter contract some sort of strange pneumonia, and within 48 hours, she had died! How can this be?
But ultimately we are not undone! Our faith in not shaken, but rather reaffirmed. We can still access joy in this season (even if we cannot dredge up the “happiness” feeling), for the incarnation of Christ – and His subsequent Work on the cross – brings us the greatest gift … the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. He is Emmanuel – God with us. And through the Holy Spirit that imbues the Church, Jesus lives not only with us, but IN us! And beyond that, the Spirit is the “earnest” of our salvation – a down-payment as it were – that we shall inherit that life that will never end. This is good stuff!
And this good stuff all had its beginning in the physical world through the coming of Christ in that Bethlehem manger.
And so I extend to all of you – dear friends, family, and co-servants of Christ – the most wonder-filled and blessed of celebrations, be it through joyful uproarious hilarity and celebration, or perhaps rather even in the quiet of solitude and contemplation.