Well, folks, here we are at the end of November. It's hard to believe this year is almost over already. Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. Three more Sundays of Advent, and then we find ourselves at Christmas.
This is also the season of "end of the semester crunch." That sounds like a cereal tagline. "Stressy-O's-they've got that great end of the semester crunch." Haha.
Anyway...In chapel today, our senior preacher talked about the hustle and bustle of the "Christmas Season," meaning how secular culture hijacks the month of December to hawk their wares and get out of the red. He talked of how Christ's birth means more than that. These words were a good reminder.
I find it hard to believe all that has happened since last Christmas. I am a person who often measures time by looking at significant events that have occurred. I remember when X happened because it happened near when Y happened, or on the anniversary of Z, or whatever. Since last Christmas, the hubster and I went on the "Tour de Sushi" vacation, Hub and I celebrated our first married Christmas and Valentine's Day, I made the trip back to Illinois twice to be with my sick and dying mother and then for her death and funeral. I chanted in front of 400 people during Easter morning worship as the intern pastor, among other duties I held as an intern until my experience was over on May 30th. Housewifing for a couple of months held my time, as well as another vacation, skydiving, bringing two of my three nephews to stay with us in ND for a week, and then moving back to school the same weekend as a good high school friend got married. My first semester of senior year is quickly drawing to a close, but not before my first birthday as an orphan, and the dawn of "the Holidays" with this same reality for me and my siblings and countless other people in the world who have experienced the death of loved ones this year.
With all of these truths, with all the joys and sorrows that have come this year, the importance of Christ's presence with and for this world is a great truth to remember. The love of God in Christ Jesus is not something that takes away the hurt and grief of no longer having mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and other loved ones, but this presence IS a reminder that through it all, we are not forsaken. We are not forgotten. The ones we have lost are not forsaken or forgotten. I take comfort in Jesus words in Matthew 28:20, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
The world DOES change. Things happen that we wish wouldn't. Pain and happiness mingle together; poignantly at such a time in the year when so much time and energy is spent on "family." And so, with the new reality for me that has only come through my orphanhood, I am learning to embrace "the Holidays," not with a fake, plastered on smile, but with authenticity, with a renewed sensitivity to others, and with the assurance of my Lord and my God: "I am with you always," to love, to forgive, and to offer life where once there was death.