I was standing in line at Wal Mart, checking out with a few snacks that my wife and I were taking to our staff Christmas party. We were both pretty excited to celebrate a great year with the staff at the church where we serve, and whom we loved.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I slipped it out to see who was calling as I slid my credit card to complete the transaction. It was my mom.
“Hey mom, we’re checking out at Wal Mart. Can I call you right back?”
All I heard in reply was the rapidly-inhaling wheeze someone has when their words are battling with their tears. I instantly squatted down beside the register, cupped my hand over my right ear, and strained to hear every word coming through the phone.
“Mom? What’s wrong? Take a deep breath.”
“Mom. I can’t hear you. What’s wrong with Grandma?”
“She’s gone, son. She’s gone.”
My world started spinning. I felt like things slowed down and sped up, all in the same moment. Everything seemed incredibly real and tangible…and at the same time, chaotic. In shock, I relayed the information to Laura as we grabbed our receipt and bags, rushing out the door. I remember the sound of the ignition as it combined with the screams from the ambulance and fire trucks. I knew they were for Grandma. I knew they were headed in the same direction we were.
My grandma’s house was less than 2 miles from Wal Mart. When we pulled up, the flashing lights of the Emergency vehicles lit up the house like Christmas lights normally would that time of year. I parked in the driveway and ran up the shiny metal wheelchair ramp that had recently been installed. My dad walked out, holding my son, Rex, in his arms. They were playing with a toy. It was Dad’s way of distraction-coping. He had just lost his mom, and to keep from crumbling under the emotional weight, he played with Rex. I talked to Dad briefly, then went inside, pushing past the medical personell who didn’t know what to say to me.
Grandma was laying on the bed. She’d died in her sleep. She hadn’t been in the best of health, but her general demeanor and look were improving. Then, she was gone. In an instant, she went to be with Jesus. I bent down and kissed her cheek, a tear dripping down mine onto hers. “I love you, Grandma” I whispered.
2 years ago, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I lost my Grandma. I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. I’m reminded of her love, her warmth, her laugh, and her put-everything-from-the-freezer-in-the-pot soup. Every Christmas Eve, I remember the breakfasts we’d eat and the gifts we’d open. I remember the shows she loved and the coffee she drank. I remember the smell her house had.
Every year, I wish I had one last Christmas with her. That I could have one last Christmas to hear her laugh at Rex jumping off of her wheelchair. That we had one last Christmas Eve to eat her huge, very-unhealthy-but-very-good breakfast. That one last time I could hear her say, “Eat, honey. Eat ’til you’re full. Then eat some more. Eat slow and eat a lot.” That I could open up the refrigerator one last time and see all of the drinks she’d gotten…she always had your favorite good and cold.
Just one last time.
Joy for the Joyless
For so many people, Christmas is pure joy. Gifts. Family. Food. Relaxing. Celebrating.
But for some, Christmas is tough.
It’s a reminder of our pain.
Maybe you lost someone you loved, and every Christmas season you’re reminded.
Maybe you’re lonely, and all of the chatter about family, friends, and celebrations reminds you that you don’t have anyone. No family. No children. No spouse. Nobody to celebrate with Christmas morning.
Maybe you got fired during the holidays one year. Maybe your dream crumbled before your eyes.
If you have a family, and you’re able to see them on Christmas, you’re prone to forget about others’ loneliness.
If you haven’t lost someone you love this time of year, it’s easy to forget that others have.
If you have plenty, it’s easy to forget that others don’t.
This season, remember that Jesus came for the broken. The hopeless. The helpless. The shattered. The confused. The sick. The lonely. The angry. The depressed. The fakers. The weak. The ones in pain.
Jesus came for us.
He didn’t stay up in heaven and simply tell us he loved us. He entered our pain. He shifted our world. He came to be one of us, and offer us hope.
He doesn’t offer hope that this life is going to be easy, pain-free, and full of wealth. But He promises to be with us through it all.
Christmas reminds us of that. At Christmas, we see a God who’s not far off, but is near. A God who can sympathize with us in our weakness. (Hebrews 4:15) A God who doesn’t just let His creation groan in pain from afar, but through whom all things hold together.
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:19-20
Jesus came for us.