Last night, my wife was talking about yesterday’s tragedy in Glasgow. She mentioned how terrible it must be to lose a loved one in such a horrific way, but that it must be even worse at this time of year — and there are gifts which have been purchased for the people who died.
I had the opportunity to get some gifts wrapped this morning. Last year, due to my pneumonia, I didn’t have much energy for the task, and it was a lot more fun, this year, to choose and wrap gifts. As I did, I was thinking about the people I loved, and hoping they would enjoy the gifts, and looking forward to when they open them. Sometimes, writing the gift tags is as fun as the wrapping, occasionally including little jokes that our family enjoys. Anticipating surprises is always fun.
As I was thinking about all this, and enjoying the task, my mind went back to what Terri had been saying last night, and I thought more about it.
Today, homes in Glasgow, Dumbarton, and Edinburgh have suffered bereavement, while people from other homes are still in hospital. In some of those homes, there are gifts, hidden away or already wrapped, for someone who won’t be opening them. The person who bought the gifts, with anticipation for their loved one’s joy, now has to decide whether to try to return them, or give them away, or keep them as a poignant keepsake. Perhaps the gifts weren’t purchased — perhaps they were made with loving hands and hearts.
There are gifts from people who won’t be there to see their loved ones open them — gifts, almost, from beyond the grave. Those who open them won’t get to see the smile on the face of the giver. Maybe the gifts aren’t wrapped yet — perhaps they are hidden somewhere, and someone will find them next week, next month, or later, and the grief will come back again.
And I have the privilege of wrapping gifts for loved ones who are alive and well. And if God is merciful, we’ll have a joyous time together the day after tomorrow — while others weep.
And it isn’t just the people in Glasgow. All over Scotland, all over the world, there will be hurting hearts this 25 December. Perhaps the missing ones didn’t die in a major tragedy. Perhaps it was just the illnesses that take people away from this life by the thousands and millions. Perhaps it was a simple fall, or a crime, or a suicide, or some other isolated incident that no one else views as a major tragedy — but there are still aching hearts.
And I was reminded again how easily we become ungrateful for the blessings we have. As Christians, we know that the blessings of this life are only temporary, but that does not mean they are not real, and our God has given us so much for which to be grateful. How many people would never think to give thanks to God for having their family around them at the holiday? Yet, they have no right to assume that will continue — as many people were reminded yesterday.
How easy it is for us to get caught up in material things and gifts and dinners and turkeys and sweets and decorations, and how easy to forget the people we should value (and do value, if we only remember them). We live in a world where an Adversary stalks, wanting to turn our hearts aside. Our God, who turns the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers, is neglected while we pursue Satan’s counterfeit pleasures.
And I was reminded again how horrible an enemy is death, and how great our Saviour is, that He has won the victory for us. Death has no sting for us any longer, the grave has no victory over those who are in Christ.
And finally, I remembered again how great is our responsibility — for many who face death, who will cross the great divide in the coming days and months, are not ready. They are not ready to enter eternity. They travel down the broad way that leads to destruction, heedless, in bondage. We have the message of life — and will we give it to them, or will we spend our time doing the things we enjoy?
What exactly are we doing with OUR lives
while they lose theirs?
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, born for a purpose. He became flesh and blood that He might die, so that the bondage of death’s fear could be broken. And He calls us, those who have been set free, to be ambassadors of that freedom.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
II Corinthians 5:19-20
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.