“Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both are promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.” Karl Barth
Today is the beginning of Advent. Every year I tell myself that I won’t let this season slip away without pondering things like faith, hope, expectation, heaven and a few other small thoughts. But every year I spend these days in December shopping, wrapping, unwrapping, baking, cooking, eating, and then wishing I knew what to do with the extra stuff and extra pounds!
This year I’m making a vow to ponder, reflect, remember and muse! Here is today’s musings starting with my Christmas tree.
Yes, the tree is up too early, it’s fake and filled to the brim with ornaments. At the base of the tree the Nativity gang has been thrown behind the stable and is lying across the tracks in perilous danger of the oncoming Santa train. All of our Christmas memories hang on an aging tree that we bought at Good Will years ago for 10 bucks!
This morning I’m sipping coffee and trying to really SEE my Christmas tree and its heavenly meaning. There are a few ornaments that represent our family vacations through the years and a few that are the grandchildren’s but the majority of ornaments belong to our youngest son and oldest daughter. Every year we gave our five children ornaments on Christmas Eve. That adds up to over 100 ornaments and more money than I choose to remember! Three of the boys have been given all of their ornaments for their own family trees. Those that are left still hang on our tree in waiting. Our youngest son is still single and doesn’t yet have his own tree so we will hold them for that coming day. Our oldest daughter has no need of her ornaments any more. She has been in Heaven now for 5 Christmas seasons. We hold them for her children.
This year our son-in-law, his new bride and our two grandchildren decorated our tree while I prepared a meal for them. I watched in wonder as they lovingly unwrapped her precious ornaments and hung them for us. I can’t get that scene out of my head and I’m grateful. That picture of beauty for ashes is in my mind even as I reminisce on past Christmases.
Years of memories are hanging on that tree. As each child came into the family, we hung a baby’s first Christmas ornament to say “welcome, you belong here, you are family and you are deeply loved”. Every year they received another ornament that spoke of their belonging, welcome and love. I miss that sacred experience. I wonder how to express that same sentiment to our ever growing family in the years to come.
The words that come to my mind as I look at our tree, are found in the Christmas hymn, O Little town of Bethlehem.
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
These ornaments represent more than 30 years of parenthood! Seeing them helps me remember that I live somewhere in between those hopes and fears. Not all of my hopes have come to fruition but neither have all of my fears. Those that have, have been met in Christ. When our daughter was a baby, my greatest fear was that she would die. My greatest hope was always that she would know Christ and serve Him faithfully. She was met by Him before her birth, at her new birth and again at the end of her earthly life. At her death my hopes and fears met in His presence and there was peace. Physical death is no longer my greatest fear for any of my family.
When I do let fear creep in, it comes as the thought that one or more of them would never know Life and Death in Christ. I make a daily choice not to live in that fear because 1 John 4:18 tells me, “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” So until Christ comes again or He meets me in death, each Christmas I will hang my ornaments along with my hopes and fears and remember that all will be met in Him.
I am believing that someday I will hear Him say to each of us, “welcome, you belong here, you are family and you are deeply loved.”