Each Christmas something grabs my attention and recaptures my wonder. When I was little it was the big gift wrapped and left by Santa that mysteriously found its way under our tree. One year it was the Lego dollhouse, complete with a kitchen, movie room, and a pet dog. (Truthfully, this is the year and gift I remember most. I can’t exactly say what it was that year, but magic and wonder and love filled the walls of that dollhouse and of my heart.)
Last year, I remember being captivated by Jesus’ love. I remember feeling completely wrapped in the warmth of his adoration of me as his child.
This year, my focus has been captured by death and our inability to live without death.
A few cold nights ago, on our way to the airport, a majestic, furry fox scurried across the highway in search of his next meal. I shouted at Alex to step on the brakes and we both watched him in awe. He was so beautiful and so swift that we couldn’t help but stare at him as he hovered across the glistening snow. Then I caught myself telling all the bunnies in the nearby field to hide quick! because the wolf was coming to get them.
I stopped myself and realized that if all the bunnies hide and save their lives, then the fox dies. If the fox is fortunate enough to find dinner and live another night in this bitter cold, a rabbit has lost his life.
Of course, there are plenty of people that watched The Lion King and understand that the circle of life works this way. Of course, there are hunters who see this kind of death and hardly pause for a breath. Of course, this is just the way it is. Even I eat and live another day at the expense of other deaths. (I haven’t found the ability to be vegetarian—or the willingness to tell my cattle-ranching about it.)
Death has been very real in our home this year. We lost one of our furry babies earlier this year and continue to mourn the loss of her little yelp when she was hungry, her snarl when she finally got her food dish, and her whine that said that was “my ball”… We still miss Phoebe, and especially in the holiday season. Then, we tried and prayed to bring a human baby into the world and even suffered through a miscarriage (early and sudden, though still difficult to swallow). We mourned the possibility of a child, even if it was never that close in our reach.
So, of course, we brought in a new furry baby, just after we lost Phoebe. We so longed for another pet to love us and bring laughter into our home, but just as she entered our door I thought, we’ll lose this one, too, someday. And it’s true; each opportunity at life brings with it the reality of death. No life on earth will be spared the final breath of life ending. Not even Jesus.
This certainly isn’t new news. Husband and I have both lost very special people in our lives and continue to mourn those losses today. We both know that the joy of life ends with the sadness of death. But this Christmas, I’m realizing that this is good news, too. Jesus could not be born here on earth without the fate of death, and without his death here on earth, I would have never been offered life.
Unfortunately, our fate here on earth is death. There is no escaping it, and it even “makes the world go round”. But, fortunately, it is not the final word—death does not have the final say. Because Jesus experienced death, we experience life abundantly, both here on earth, and especially after we leave this earth.
This message doesn’t change how we feel about death, especially for the loved ones we lose here on earth. Sure, we can find hope in these losses, but I doubt if I will ever come to grips with death; I think death will always feel sad and heavy for me. But when I remember that life without Jesus’ death wouldn’t be life at all, I remember that this holiday season is full of hope and love, and brings comfort to a saddened world in need.
Merry Christmas, to you and yours—