Christmas, Devotionals, Faith, Family, Life, The Bible, writings

Wiping Away the Tears

If you know me well at all, you know that Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday. I mean, it’s not even close. I think that is one of the reasons I have been drawn to more liturgical and traditional celebrations of Advent and the Christmas season because they last longer and give me the excuse to keep my music and decorations going. But while I love all things Christmas, I understand that for many people Christmas, and the Holidays around it, are challenging seasons.

I currently work at a funeral home /cemetery combination and every day I work with families who are grieving a recent loss. They are facing their first Christmas without their friend or loved ones. I spoke to a lady the other day who is going through her first holiday season in over 55 years without her husband. She told me, “It just won’t be the same.” I grieved with her. I gave her the answer that “the firsts are always the hardest” and again assured her of my support. Some of you reading this are experiencing, or have experienced, similar emotions.

I am incredibly blessed to have my parents, my brother, and my wife and kids with me. I’ve not experienced that kind of loss yet. But I will admit that at Christmas, as much as I love it, I tend to get melancholy. Part of it is the low amount of sunlight. Part of it is the emotional low after such emotional highs. And part of it is the bittersweet memories of seasons gone by.

I often think of my grandmother Will, or Mamaw. The 5 Will boy cousins would spend Christmas Eve at her house with her. We’d watch a Christmas comedy before bed. We’d wake up to a nice Christmas breakfast before going to our respective homes. Mamaw always made Christmas special. I can still see her wearing a sweater with a big red cardinal emblazoned on it. I have a few Christmas ornaments that she made, and those are very treasured possessions.

Or I think of playing on Christmas morning with the toys I got as a child, listening to my dad play Manheim Steamroller on the giant stereo system. And then we would listen to Reba McEntire’s recitation of “The Christmas Guest”. I remember Christmas cards from great aunts and uncles who have passed away. I think of Emma & Adrian, who always came to every Christmas event at Church dressed in their finest, Adrian with usually a goofy Christmas tie.

I think about how my kids will never get to open up a quilt on Christmas made by my either of my grandmothers. Or smile when they opened that card from Uncle Philip. You see, Christmas makes me smile while a tear rolls down my cheek. That’s the paradox of it all. A little sorrow mixed with thanksgiving. Hope for the future mixed with nostalgia.

When I read through the Old Testament prophets, I find similar emotions. No, they aren’t longing for grandma’s molasses cookies, but they recount how God had done amazing things for His people. How the Lord made them a people, brought them out of slavery, established them as a nation, and a golden age during the reigns of David & Solomon. But now a new generation has forgotten and because of the judgments of God, they will never experience the joyful celebrations at the Temple. They’ll not know what it means to celebrate the Feast Days as they sojourn in a foreign land.

But the prophets offer hope in the midst of the sorrow, a light in the darkness. They point to the future, where, as Philip Brooks would write, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Isaiah wrote of such a day in Isaiah 25. Look at what He says in verses 8-9:

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’

You see, even as we think about those who will be physically absent from our gatherings this year, because of Jesus, we have hope. Hope because Jesus has defeated death. And while for now we still feel its pain, it is only temporary. We have hope, a promise, that because Jesus has risen from the dead, we can have eternal life with Him in paradise. I don’t know where heaven is or much about what it is like, but I know that Jesus will be there and that He will wipe away every tear.

These verses will find their fulfillment in Revelation 21:3-4 which say, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

This is our hope. This is our God that we are waiting for. Salvation is worth the wait. The making-all-things-new is worth the wait. The sorrow that we endure for now will someday give way to a glorious revealing of Christ Jesus and our dwelling with him forever. So as you reflect this season on things sorrowful and joyful may you be encouraged to hope on Jesus, the Hope of the World.

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