But… this year will be different instead of 4 place settings some of our friends will now have three or maybe even two place settings at their family table. Where there were 4 stockings there will now be three or less hanging over the mantle. Empty seats that were previously filled with a loving mom, dad, brother, uncle, aunt, sister etc. … will now stare at us reminding us of our loss. 2020 has brought great differences in our lives and this yearly celebration of the birth of the Christ Child will prove to be difficult and different for many.
Instead of traveling to see our parents who are 90+ years old, or getting our children and grands together in a central location we are singing “just the two of us”. Spending holiday time with the families who have loved and adopted us wherever we have moved even this will not be as it was in times gone by.
A beloved friend and sister in Christ delivered a present yesterday. She rang the door bell, thrust the package to me at arms length and stepped off the porch and said “love you” as she hurried to the car. Last year she would have come inside to fellowship and spend time knitting or crocheting with my wife — but not this Christmas.
A young couple God brought into our lives some years ago had a gift for us to pick up. They also are celebrating their third child, Elijah, or Eli as he is called by his sister and brother. Elijah is six weeks old and we have never been close to him, yet they wanted us to meet. So we did, but instead of handing him to us to coo and hold we looked at him through masks and stood 6 feet apart outdoors on their porch in 49 degree weather. Little Eli had so many blankets and caps on we could barely see him. Yet we rejoiced because even this was counted as a blessing and another first.
This day is bound to be marked by both joy and sorrow, both celebration and grief. It will be a day on which we’ll be confronted with one very sad and one very happy reality—the death of family, friends and the birth of our Savior.
Christmas is the day Christians remember the birth of Jesus. On this day we remember that day. “[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” We believe this is no mere myth, no mere morality tale, but an actual, historical event in which God was born a man. This God-man was born into a broken world—a world of suffering, a world of sorrow, a world in which even our greatest pleasures are marred by the knowledge that we are never far from grief, never far from loss.
In 2020 our world and our nation is broken, a world and nation of suffering, a world and nation of injustice, a world and nation of sorrow a world and nation constantly reminded daily that …”there is but a step between us and death.” 1 Samuel 20:3b.
As we ponder the birth of Jesus, we cannot help but consider the many references to both darkness and light. In the Scriptures many years before Jesus was born, Isaiah and Zechariah prophesied “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Old Zechariah exclaimed poetically that “the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…” The shepherds who were tending their flocks through the night were interrupted by the glory of the Lord blazing in the darkness. The wise men saw a bright star glimmering in the night sky. Simeon exclaimed that this Jesus was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
So in many ways the death of our loved ones is a direct result of the Birth of Christ. Because Christ was born we have hope beyond the firsts of this year. We hope beyond the grave, we hope beyond the suffering, injustice, and sorrow. We have hope for that day when “….God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (AMPC)