This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Death at Christmas

Eddie died sixteen years ago next week.

He was my father-in-law, a good and faithful man, whom I loved and respected tremendously. I still miss him. He had cancer, and although the prognosis was reasonably good, he didn’t respond to treatment. We got the word that he was near death, and so we had to hustle to leave for Michigan from our home in Connecticut a day earlier than we had planned. We left in the middle of the afternoon during a heavy snowstorm, drove until 1 or 2 in the morning, spent the night in a motel, and drove the rest of the way. When we arrived, Eddie was in a coma, and he died peacefully a few hours later. I remember when we told my 6 year old daughter that Papa Eddie had died, and I remember her tears. I think she was wondering why God didn’t answer her prayers.

She wasn’t the only one.

I wondered why he had to die, and why of all times it had to be just before Christmas.

I found an answer in my favorite Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Two of the verses read:

O come thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.
 O come thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.

I realized that I had the situation backwards. The real story wasn’t so much that Eddie had died in Advent, but that Christmas is God’s response to death with all its pain, sorrow, and misery. Rather than being upset at the timing of Eddie’s passing, I could take comfort in the message of Advent even as we held his funeral. I was still angry, but not at God. Instead, I was angry at the reality of death, the wrongness of it, even as I could find peace amid my own tears because Jesus does open wide our heavenly home and give us victory o’er the grave.

I have since lost both of my parents. Every time I sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” I think of them, and of Eddie, and I am reminded why Christmas happened. There are still tears, but I know they are temporary, and that sooner than I expect it, right around the corner, we will be reunited, never to be separated. And then there will be no more tears, ever.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.