“Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
HOPE of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”
-Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
As much as I love this season, the last couple of years it has become a little bittersweet. I imagine it is for many who have lost a loved one who at some time was a major part of their holiday celebrations. This is especially true in our family, as last year we lost my sweet Grandma Merry to a quick but difficult battle with cancer. Cancer sucks, by the way.
You see, not only was my grandma a big part of our holiday traditions and memories just because she was family and great at being “grandma” at Christmas, Christmastime was an extra-special time with her. My grandma Merry (hence the spelling) shared a birthday with the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. December 25th. I remember as a young child naively asking my grandma if she really liked having her birthday on Christmas. Surely not, I thought, because she must only get half the presents! Instead she told me “I can’t imagine a better birth date than to share it with Jesus!” I was probably only 6 or 7 years old when this conversation happened – yet it has stuck with me for quite a long time.
I really don’t like the idea of having Christmas without my grandma. Last year we had some distractions – anticipating our baby’s birth a few weeks following the holiday and spending Christmas in Colorado instead of Texas. The “hole” in our Christmas celebration was made easier by what was going on. This year though, we’ll be back in Texas with Luke (an almost one-year-old now) and taking part in a lot of familiar family traditions. It hurts my heart thinking about Christmas in Texas without grandma. I hate that we won’t wrap half her gifts in birthday paper. I hate that we won’t buy her a birthday cake in the midst of all the Christmas desserts. I hate that she won’t ever get to experience the joy of having a great-grandchild. It’s just hard, and I know that while my experience may be a little unique of missing someone terribly who’s birthday was actually on Christmas day, the feelings of missing a loved one terribly around the holidays is something that many are experiencing as I write these words.
Those that knew my grandma, though, know that she would have never wanted me feel sad this time of year. She would have me certainly enjoy every moment of the festivity and family time, but more so would have wanted us to celebrate the HOPE we have because of the promise of the baby who’s birthday she was privileged to share. Anyone who knew my Grandma knew she was full of love for her Savior, the giver of hope. She loved the word “Hope” and everything the word brought about in her life. She even named her little dachshund Hope!
In the last weeks and days of her life, my grandma spent her time sharing about the blessings her Savior had given her and how she wanted those around her to experience these blessings and hope as well. No matter if it was a family member, friend, doctor, or nurse, she made sure to tell them about her God who loved her. When she decided not to proceed with chemo treatments to prolong the inevitable sentence cancer had given her, she told us she had peace.
She had peace in the hope that had been promised to the Israelites…
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 23:5-6
in the hope promised and fulfilled to the disciples and early church,
“3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.” Matthew 21:3-6
and promised to her.
“11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 8:11-12
More than anything else, my grandma knew that her heavenly Father would fulfill His promise of salvation in her life. This wasn’t from anything she had done – she didn’t have the easiest life. It was purely from the gift of faith from her Father. When she had much, when she had little, and when she had nothing left -she had HOPE. She knew what was to come. She wanted everyone she came in contact with to have it too. Grandma Merry “got it.”
That’s what this first week of Advent recognizes. HOPE. Hope of forgiveness. Hope that this isn’t it. Hope that tomorrow is a new day. Hope that there are better things yet to come. Hope of a Savior.
My heart and prayers are with those of you who are missing someone this holiday season for the first time or the fiftieth. May you all experience an overwhelming sense of HOPE this Advent season, and may you have a very “Merry” Hope-filled Christmas.
Grandma Merry – Christmas 2005. A real-life example of hope.