December 30, 2014
Nobody wants a funeral on Christmas.
So when Joyce died two days before Christmas Eve,
It was decided that the funeral service should wait till the day after.
Joyce had been treasurer of the congregation for something like, 30 years. It was the rare Sunday that her husband Harold did not usher. In our little congregation, in our rural community, they were well known and much loved.
So on the 26th when the majority of the congregation returned to gather again,
this time under very different circumstances,
the signs of Christmas were still everywhere.
the tree with its lights and sparkling ornaments,
dozens of white poinsettias.
And in the center of it all,
a coffin covered with a white pall.
As a farmer’s wife, Joyce was not a fancy person. She was never the type to want a fuss made over her, or anyone to go to great expense. So I was glad that in this moment the church could be so extravagant, so over the top beautiful for her.
Harold had surprised me by requesting for the funeral
the special music we had just heard on Christmas Eve:
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.
A lot of people liked the song,
but it wouldn’t have been my first choice to sing a Christmas Carol at a funeral.
Just like it wouldn’t have been my choice to have a funeral
in the midst of Christmas.
It was not until later that spring when Harold asked me
to walk up the hill to the church cemetery,
and take a look at the newly placed family headstone,
that I found out what it all meant to him.
The gospel of Luke tells us what happened on Christmas.
The Gospel of John tells us what Christmas means.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Christmas does not come despite our losses or sadness.
Christmas does not come despite the suffering the darkness in the world.
Christmas comes because of it.
And while we may try to distance ourselves from grief at this time of year.
Or feel like it’s best to try to forget about all that troubles us, and be happy.
The good news about Christmas, the best news in this world,
Is that the light that we are all seeking, the life that we all long for,
has come into this world in Christ.
Even when we do not recognize or realize there are messengers to testify to it.
And there are surprising new ways that this light breaks through
and shines in those times we need it the most.