The eggnog has been replaced with sickly-sweet-grape-flavored-fever-reducing baby Tylenol. The chocolate truffles and shortbread has been replaced with dry saltines and chicken noodle soup. The trip downtown to see the city lights has been replaced with a trip to a walk-in clinic for our three-year-old suddenly covered in hives. The slow, late night dances to Frank Sinatra’s Silver Bells has been replaced with fast, late night embraces with the toilet bowl.
Yes, we've been a sick, festive bunch, these past few days here in the Galotti home.
It’s certainly nothing serious, and though influenza and colds, hives and other short-lived ailments are not great fun, they are certainly not a big deal either. We’re already on the mend. But slight as our sickness has been, it’s prompted reflection that our bodies really are so frail, so weak. And though these past few days have not been a dark or even difficult time, merely tiring, they’ve served as a reminder: in this cheerful, glowing time of year, we live in a world still shadowed by darkness.
I think of some friends.
I think of the friend I spoke with after church on Sunday who, when I asked her how she was doing, answered honestly and spoke of the weight of her heart, her loneliness at times, her discouragement. “I just want the holidays to be over, for it to be January already!” she said.
Or the other friend, the elderly woman in her nineties who has loved Christ for longer than I have been alive, who I was sitting beside last week while we took the Lord’s Supper together. My friend’s body is old, frail, and now her mind is quickly losing clarity as well. She held the glass of wine in her hand and, while someone up front gave thanks, this elderly woman turned to her husband, held out the glass of wine and loudly, totally confused, asked: “What is this? What do we do with this?” This woman is guaranteed an inheritance that will never spoil or fade where Her Saviour will dwell with her in sinless glory and unfading light. But for now, her body is frail and withered and her mind is beginning to break.
We’re caught between two worlds. Death has been forever smashed and conquered by Life. But we still will die. The light entered into the darkness and the darkness will never extinguish it. But we still know night’s dark valleys and death’s dark shadows.
Loneliness. Discouragement. Sickness. Failure. Sin. Grief. Death.
Sometimes the festive lyrics of ‘have a holly, jolly Christmas’ ring hollow and we know that what we need is simply more of Him, the One who brings faith, hope and joy. And these three, they can be found even in the deepest valleys or darkest nights. They don’t require mistletoe or holly branches or festive, jolly carols. Christ isn’t a seasonal gimmick who brings cheery peace on earth for two weeks every December. Christ is the light of the world who brings freedom from sin, light to our darkness, life after death.
The first Advent: a real day in history when Light shined into the darkness.
Then there was a life of sorrow that would lead to a gruesome death and the darkest day. Christ tasted death and knew utter darkness. But then… life. And that Life was the Light of men.
The second Advent: a real day in the future when Christ will return. And on that day, the darkness will be no more.
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will dwell with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” … And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.