Always winter but never Christmas
Is it possible to have winter blues if we haven't had much snow to speak of?
Another question to ponder. Does extremely cold air and harsh winters reduce colds and flu?
In the words of C.S. Lewis, "Is it always winter but never Christmas for us?" Pushing those questions aside, let's talk life and death.
You may be thinking, "Wow, this pastor really knows how to have fun. I bet he's the life of the party..."
No, really, let's dive into the tension between winter and Christmas, life and death, theist and atheist. I suppose one could add here the people who are cup half full versus those who are cup half empty. (Pessimists vs. optimists, hopeful vs. hopeless, defeatists vs. indomitables, victims vs. victors)
Last evening I was honored to sit at the bedside of one struggling for life. With each labored breath came another anxious moment for those of us around the perimeter of this mysterious time. It is so demanding and difficult to watch a beloved part of our lives slip into an unknown destination. Labored breaths, a shell of the person, and recovery not looking favorable, combine to make it feel like winter but never Christmas. Wanting so badly to be able to curb the slow movement toward death keeps us there and with each word and prayer we seek a miracle.
We hang in a cold reality that something is occurring beyond our sight (1 Corinthians 13:12). There is a transaction taking place that to us seems painful, but to the one gasping for breath is glorious. The moments just before death, I believe, are some of the holiest moments we can possibly know outside of the actual entrance into the throne room of the Almighty.
Christmas is a small dot in the rear-view mirror for many, but for those of us who celebrate Christmas year round, it is an ever present grace. Though the weather is dismal, cold is present, and winter is in midlife, hope abounds for us. And so is the case for those of faith who gather round the bed of a dying loved one.
The nature of humanity always tends to miss the eternal. Our short-sighted vision doesn't allow for the longview of God's mercy and grace. Thankfully, we are wrapped in the arms of One who claims victory over winter and brings great joy to us in the celebration of Christmas. Jesus is the One who redeems and saves us. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6, NIV)
This image reflects the result of two severe snowstorms that hit York county in 2010, One dumping on top of another left us scurrying for cover. How could we function? Where would we put all this snow? Will there be any relief in sight? In reality, the picture here is incomplete. We would end up with close to 40 inches of snow when it was said and done. Phew! Talk about winter with little joy. Sore muscles and strained backs were common. Then one day, the sun came out and things changed.
Snow turned to water. Defeat was swallowed up by victory. Winter was not a period at the end of the sentence but rather a comma. Winter and death can never supplant the power of life and Christmas.
"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NIV)