Whatever moments are to come, this moment is forever. Nothing that will come to be can make this moment otherwise. Everything that ever happens in life goes on being a part of that life, not just the thing that happens last. The man on the cross is also the babe in the manger, the child on his journeys, the boy in the temple. No man is such a prisoner of chronology but that his past and his future too are not a living part of his present, accessible to him in his dreams if nowhere else and accessible to us in our dreams about him.
–Frederich Buechner, The Faces of Jesus: A Life Story
It is the time in December when I start thinking about our Darkest Night healing service that will occur two Sundays from now. A dozen or more of us will pray, and sing, read a story of loss that is redeemed, and receive anointing for healing. There are tears in the room as we remember the presence of grief, death, sickness and loss in our lives, in the midst of this season of life, hope and joy. These people get it. All of them are acquainted with grief. Most have lost loved ones to death this year. Some experience illness. Some, confront the emotional loss of a loved one to substance abuse. Jesus being born to die makes complete sense to us. We cry. We try to smile. We leave the service with a sense of confliction. Nothing has been resolved of course — life is never that easy. But our grief has been heard, and it has been heard by a God who comes to our world specifically to do so.
As I re-read Buechner’s “life story” of Jesus a few weeks ago, I was struck by this talk of the past and future being a part of the present. I guess we all sense this in some way, and more clearly at some times. But the words seemed to crystallize it for me in a more substantial fashion. I had a feeling I would find the opportunity to use it is a devotion close to Christmas. It helps me to make better sense of the “being born to die” idea which surrounds Jesus’ life. I like it. I love it actually. It sits on a magnet in the refrigerator of my mind. It lends me hope and actually creates a more modest joy than I think is either possible or deserved. I am grateful for it.
As you pray this week, consider the multitude of ways that this season offers you the opportunity to stand at the juncture of the past, present and future. Moments with your family that are reminders of the past while also being hints of what the future will bring. Trips to the communion rail when we remember a meal of bread and wine in the past, and also are granted a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. Moments by ourselves when we may remember an obstacle we have overcome in the past, and the doors it is opening to the future for us. Pray to God this week to reveal to you his constantly unfolding grace, which draws the past and the future into the moment in which we stand. Pray for the kind of joy that is different from what the world desperately strives for. Pray for a joy that is not a release from anything bad in our lives for a few days or week, but pray for a joy that helps us to interpret all the experiences of our lives in a present that is shaped by things done and things yet to be. It is assured that God will reveal to us this joy in the story of the birth we will hear and celebrate in a couple of weeks. Pray for other revelations also, if you are so bold.