How very odd this Christmas is. This was the Christmas that wasn’t going to be. The one where I would be gone. This time last year, I was feeling so badly I thought I had no hope of living another year. I was unable to go with my family to pick out a tree. All of our family’s holiday traditions found me no longer a participant. My pain was so bad, I was quickly becoming addicted to narcotic pain-killers. My cancer continued to grow unabated up and down my spine. Merry Christmas? Bah, humbug was more the reality I was experiencing. It was horrible.
Now here I am a year later, pinching myself every morning when I wake up, wondering afresh at the mercy of God. Yes, it has been a hellish year, but it has also been a year of stunning miracles. The biggest one being the fact that here I am – still. Why has God preserved my life? I’ve heard many suggestions. To have more time with my family? Absolutely. To write a book? Maybe. To skydive once before I die? Uh, sounds awesome, but my bones say no.
Another possibility is taken from a line in the hymn “Silent Night” – “And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.” Perhaps the shaping of my soul for its transition to the world to come requires further work. After all, I am no where yet near the place where I can say with deep contentment, “The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
So if I have been held back for remedial work, I think I intend to be a very poor student, flunking this class over and over again, so as to stay here on earth as long as possible! Ha – I told you I am a mess! It’s not that I have anything against the world to come. It’s just that I have transitioned from caring about the things that really don’t matter to viewing as precious the people who do. Leaving them is not gonna be on my to-do list any time soon.
Sitting here tonight, a year later, enjoying the glow of our Christmas tree and awaiting my daughter, Andrea’s, arrival home (all four of these awesome women will be here for Christmas), I am deeply affected. No one will be missing at our Christmas this year. Did you hear me? No one! God’s kindness has been bountiful beyond measure.
My health has been miraculously preserved, friends like you have surrounded us and upheld us with sustaining prayer, financial gifts have provided for us, and MacPro Services continues to grow under my son-in-law’s leadership. Love and mercy have never been so abundant in my heart and upon my family. The Christmas that wasn’t going to be has taken a miraculous turn for us. Thanks be unto God for this horrible, wonderful year!
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” – CS Lewis
A year ago this very night, another miracle took place. In my home, in my bathroom, in my very bathtub, Cora Benton Register came into this world. She and her sister, Lina, are our first two grandchildren. How gracious of God to give me another year to see these two girls grow up a little more right before my very eyes. They are both beautiful beyond measure and my heart melts when I am with them. Here is a stunning birth photo of Cora taken by our daughter, Maggie, who both sees beauty and captures it in amazing ways.
A year later, the newborn baby above has become the little girl below and I have been alive to see this happen! She is now into everything and toddling about our house. Betsy and I are grandparents – again. Are you starting to understand why my heart is so full?
Christmas, I think, is about unexpected provision. It’s about shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night when suddenly angels show up and all but scare the bejeebers out of them. But amazingly, on that dark night and in this dark world, the news is good. They have appeared “with tidings of good news of great joy which shall be for all the people.”
Bam! In the midst of great need. Out of nowhere. Suddenly. Deep love and amazing provision. Who does stuff like this?
Perhaps that’s why I’m still alive this Christmas, come to think about it.
Maybe God, every so often in this broken world, delights in doing unexpected, miraculous things to remind us of how deeply we are loved and that help truly is on its way.
Yeah, that must be it.
Blessed Christmas to you all,
Ed – still