I wrote a few weeks ago that some things in life are “messy.” Another statement that I would put right next to that: “Sometimes, reality kicks in. Life happens.” (I think we all know the more colorful word we often substitute for “life.”)
Sunday was such a joyful day at Reidland; the singing of familiar hymns, hearing a beautiful choral arrangement sung, the baptism of a baby girl, and the reading of the Annunciation as re-corded in Luke’s Gospel. It was one of those days that I said to myself, “Today, we have worshiped the Lord!”
Late Sunday evening, I received a phone call. The Rev. Henry Jeffries, a part-time pastor, had a heart attack during one of the worship services and died. I was Henry’s clergy mentor and the news shocked me to the core. Henry was such a gifted pastor and kind-hearted man. His death at this time of the year rekindled my memory of a December in 1999, when my grandmother died on Christmas Eve (my parents’ anniversary) while I was flirting with my own death in a cardiac care unit. My mother was so upset that she didn’t even attend her own mother’s funeral, and I suspect these events hastened her own death nine months later. I fully understand how Christmas can bring bad memories for some of us.
Henry’s recent death reminds me that even in this season of joy, “life happens.” But this season also reminds me that… life happens! The connection between Christmas and Easter is unmistakable, and the thread running through it is life, joy, and peace. A child is born of a Virgin named Mary, who instead of saying, “Woe is me,” says, “Here I am” – and then sings her thanksgiving and joy to the Lord.
You hear me say often in worship that we are Easter People. I think that means that we’re also Christmas people. Amidst the tragedies of life, at Christmas time we are reminded that at the birth of Jesus, life happens: life emergent, life abundant, and life eternal. There is no tragedy, no happenstance, no death that can rob us of the joy of the Christ child, who comes to save the world.
Merry Christmas, and God Bless us, everyone.
Grace and Peace,