It is Christmas time, a time when families are making plans to gather and eat great food, exchange presents, enjoy old memories and making new ones, and having fun. It is a time of joy and peace and goodness and glad hearts and carols ringing through the land. It is a time for reflection on your life and where you are going and where you have been. It is a time of love and kindness and good wishes for everyone. For one family this year, it is a time of sorrow for their beloved mother has gone home to be with Jesus. I know their sorrow as I have lost my mother also and my father just as they have. I know what it is like to lose a loved one two weeks before Christmas as I lost my only brother on Dec. 13th in 1975. I know how the sympathy cards will pour in intermixed with Christmas greetings and holiday cards. I know the pain of an empty seat at the family table. I know, and I will pray for this family that they will mourn and yet be comforted, that they will cry and also laugh as they come together and remember a beloved mother and all the wonderful and not so wonderful memories of their time with her.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, (New International Version or NIV).
When a Christian dies what do we say about them? Well I am sure that this family will say that their mom knew Jesus and had a good name and a good heart. I know that I feel that way about my family who have passed from this earth. I remember them often and think of how we had times of great joy together and great sorrow. The funeral is to be a time of remembrance as well as saying goodbye but it is also a reminder of our own mortality and that death will come for us all one day. Are we ready to meet death? Are we ready to meet God face to face? I hope you answer yes to this, I know that I am ready to meet God and to see Jesus face to face, oh how awesome that day will be.
Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:10-12, (NIV).
Yes Lord, teach us to not waste each day but make it count for eternity. What a joy it is to be around someone who is always busy and taking good care of their family and friends. They know what is important, that fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and they stay active and busy doing all that they can for their loved ones and anyone the Lord sends across their path in life. I was one of those sent across the path of the woman who passed away, and she was always kind to me and generous and encouraging and loving. What an example of hard-working she was as well. What a blessing in my life she was and such a good friend to my mom in the days after the death of my brother. Teach me to be kind and compassionate too Lord. Time moves so quickly as we get older I think. It seems like only yesterday that I was around this dear saint and yet I know it is more like thirty years. Teach us to number our days Lord.
I think that Christmas is a time of remembrance like no other for it is during the holidays that we often harken back to our childhood and remember those who have gone before us into eternity. For me it is a time of thinking about those I loved so dearly that leave an empty chair around the family Christmas table. It is a time to be reminded once again that they made lasting impressions upon my character and that I carry on some of their traditions for Christmas. I make candy during Christmas and use recipes from family and old friends. I make pecan pie and use my grandmother’s recipe. I make foods that remind me of Christmases past and the good times we all had when we were still all together. It is a mixture of sadness and joy all mixed up together. I will use the good china that belonged to my mother and the crystal that she gave me so many years ago and that she purchased from someone else from our past who is gone from this earth. We will gather around the family table that belonged to my great-grandmother and I will remember all the meals we had with her and all the other family members who are now gone on to glory. After our meal I will sit down and play the piano some of the old familiar Christmas carols and holiday songs and think of my great-aunt who passed away this summer at the age of 99 and how she patiently taught me to play the piano. Yes I think that Christmas is a time of nostalgia and also a time for making new memories and new foods as well. I will be enjoying Christmas with my son and also my daughter and her family and of course my precious granddaughter! We will make new memories and have lots of fun I have no doubt.
As you gather this Christmas I hope you remember to pray for those who are facing their first Christmas without a precious loved one. Even if the person who has passed away is a Christian there will be sorrow mixed with hope and joy as their family come together for the holidays. From my own experience I know that the first is often the hardest but time will march on whether we want it to or not and our hearts accept the losses in life in time. If you have lost a loved one I want you to know that it is ok to cry and feel sad. Even at Christmas time it is ok. I will be thinking of you and saying a prayer asking for comfort.