Tuesday, December 14

Read Isaiah 54

Another post from Molly at Brittle, Crazy Glass. Home recovering after giving birth less than a week ago and already finding the time to be reflective and articulate. The following is actually two posts; separated by about a year. The first post is titled There is a Redeemer, the second is Sweetly Broken. The poem at the end was included in the most recent post.

There is a Redeemer

What a wild week: last Monday I awoke to the news of a friend's death. On Tuesday I checked into the hospital and on Wednesday we welcomed a healthy, beautiful, big (for me) baby boy into the world. We spent the rest of the week acclimating and falling in love with him. On Saturday morning, my mom received word that her ailing father had been taken to the hospital and was being removed from his oxygen, which meant it was only a matter of time before he died. He hung on until early this morning.

Later this morning, HH left me at home with our little guy (we're not supposed to be out in public yet for the sake of both of our health) to attend our friend's memorial service. I wish I could have been there -- it sounds like it was a beautiful service celebrating Christ's beauty as reflected through one of his people. Of course, I would have cried through the whole thing -- I cried through it anyway from home as I sat and held our son and grieved with a woman who had to say goodbye to her own son way too soon.

Death, new life, death. This is the second December in a row that I find myself contemplating death at Christmas.

The poem below speaks to what the Incarnation represents: God himself entering our messy world and beginning the messy and painful process of redeeming all that is broken and painful. As long as we remain here on earth, our griefs will remain; but our grief is sanctified, and we can rest in knowing that the day is coming when all of our tears will be wiped away.

Sweetly Broken

There is a certain rightness about a funeral at Christmas.

Not that a funeral seems right at any time of the year; indeed, it is a jarring reminder of all that is not right. But that is precisely why it felt appropriate to pause on the Saturday before Christmas, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of shopping and baking and mailing and cleaning, to mourn.

It is the close juxtaposition of the two events that brought to light for me this year the "reason for the season."

What does the little baby in my nativity scene signify?

He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:14).

Wonderful Counselor. Who needs a counselor but the troubled, the vexed, the pained? Her family, her friends, you, me; he is our Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God. What better demonstration of the need for a Mighty God than the apparent victory of the strongest foe we face in our earthly lives; and who but our Mighty God could have swallowed death in victory?

Everlasting Father. He is unchanging, he is gently caring, and he welcomed our sister -- his beloved daughter -- into eternity.

Prince of Peace. The sermon for the funeral was entitled "Great is Your Peace," after verse 13 of Isaiah 54, a verse specifically selected by M for her own funeral. The chapter is a promise of the joy and shalom that the Messiah will bring. Because of Christmas, we now have peace with God, and we will enjoy a fullness of all-encompassing peace in eternity that we can't even begin to imagine now. Read Isaiah 54 and see if your heart doesn't sing and yearn for that day.

Irenaeus believed that by living through all stages of life -- infanthood, teen years, adult, being born, dying, Christ redeemed each of those stages of life. He is not only with us, but he identifies deeply and personally with each of our sufferings.

I asked a friend at the funeral reception how she was doing? "I'm a mess," she said.

Aren't we all?

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

 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!

The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!

Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.

We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers
May be heaven’s distant lamps.

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.

She is not dead,–the child of our affection,–
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ himself doth rule.

In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.

Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.

Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child;

But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
Shall we behold her face.

And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest,–

We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.

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