Today is Christmas – a day of birth. Luke 2 records the event: “10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” His birth is significant. It marks Jesus’ entry into this world – of whom the prophets spoke. It marks Jesus’ entry into this world – laying aside all royalty claims, living as a servant to all. It marks Jesus’ entry into this world – making the journey from the manger to the cross, securing for fallen and sinful man redemption and forgiveness. His birth is a reason to celebrate.
Our redemption and salvation began on this day. If there had been no birth, there could have been no earthly instruction about who God is and what He desires from us. If there were no instruction and teaching, there would have been no rejection by those Jesus came to reveal Himself. If there had been no rejection, there would have been no prophecy fulfillment, which solidifies our hope and assurance. If there were no rejection, there would be no crucifixion – no atoning death for the sins of man. If there were no crucifixion and death, there certainly would have been no resurrection. It is no secret that this is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to this season more than any other. This season brings with it a sense of amazement and child-like wonder. The carols, family gatherings, gift-giving, and the feeling of goodwill toward our fellow man only add to the enjoyment of the season. To God, I am thankful for this day of birth.
Today is Christmas – a day of death. I lost my dad on December 25th, 2012, after a brief six-month battle with lung cancer. It still doesn’t seem real. I remember the events of that day clearly. We were spending Christmas vacation with Terri’s parents in Tallahassee, Florida. Dad was in a nursing home in Tifton, Georgia, about two hours away. We had seen him the day before and knew his conditioning was worsening quickly. We received a call from my step-mother around 6:00 am. She said we should come now if we wanted to see him. We made the trip to Tifton. The Hospice nurse was in the room and shared what we could expect over the next few hours. I have sat with many, many families as medical professionals shared the same information. I admit it was very different being on the other side of the conversation. I had the privilege of being in the room alone with my dad when he took his last breath. To have been there to do so, I am very thankful.
The relationship with my dad was the best five years before his death. As I shared at his funeral, my dad battled many personal demons that led to great turmoil and distance. My dad was a Christian. He came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior through a faith-based alcohol treatment program at the rescue mission where he was living. For this, I am thankful. I miss my dad terribly. There are many things I would love to share with him. I would love to be able to introduce him to his great-grandchildren. I would give anything to join him at the Waffle House (his favorite restaurant) and talk over a cup of coffee.
One day. Two profound events. Countless emotions. I am thankful that the baby born in the manger is now the Prince of Peace. More than ever, the words of Isaiah 26:3 ring true: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. Because he trusts in You”.