The Reason for the Season

  • Posted: December 24, 2020
  • Category: Blog
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Tis the season. A strangely lit Christmas is upon us, an apparition from the pen of Charles Dickens, perhaps something conjured by the Ghost of Christmas Future. But in truth, I think this Christmas a specter truer to that drawn by Gahan Wilson or Gary Larsen. Dicken’s eerie vision was leavened by Scrooge’s redemption whereas Wilson and Larsen have only macabre humor, but it is that macabre humor which captures the essence of Christmas – 2020.

But enough of bleak noir, I have been given a very special gift this Christmas, one of God’s great miracles. I have been privileged to hold once more in my clumsy embrace a new born baby, a granddaughter. One would think it might become a matter of routine. This wisp of flesh, this newborn is the fourteenth I have been blessed to hold, four children and ten grandchildren.

But let me assure you, there is nothing routine about babies. Each of these little ones has been so precious, so unique, a glimpse of eternity, a smile from God. And this time could be my last, this baby girl may well be the bookend in the line of blessings that began with another little girl over forty years ago – my daughter, herself a three times mother. I have been blessed beyond measure to have been a witness to this miracle fourteen times.

In this strange year, it is hard not to worry, looking down at that tiny face, that red wizened elvish face. There is indeed much to worry about. The world into which she is born seems so much adrift, the future so menacing, hope so ephemeral.

I imagine that grandparents since time immemorial have felt that way. At this time in our life we have few illusions and time on our hands. As my grandparents held me for the first time the news headlines were worrisome as well, The Great Blizzard of ’49, the Korean War, The Berlin Air Lift, the Communist Takeover of China, Russia becoming a nuclear power.

Looking down into that peaceful face, now grimacing with a momentary gas bubble, I know that I will love her. I know that she will light up my life, but also exasperate me. I know she will come running to hug me, but also be forgetful and hurtful. She will be part of memories that warm my heart, but also a source of worry – ever and always. And I hope when my Lord calls me home that she will remember me fondly.

As we grow in years, we have this need to share with others the experiences and thoughts that make up our lives. I write this blog in part because I have this urge to make this world a better place, to share my life’s experience in the hope of making a difference for the good in the lives of others. But an even larger need is the hunger to simply touch others, touch them in a way that connects our humanity.

Is this also true of God? Does God want to share with us His thoughts and experiences? Does He have a hunger to simply touch us, to connect with us? Is my look into the face of my newborn granddaughter a glimpse into the mind of God? I am tempted to say that we are made of stardust, certainly true in the physical sense, but even truer as poetry expressing much higher truths. Joni Mitchell sang the anthem of an emerging generation at Woodstock –

“We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”

Joni Mitchell’s inspiration for a new generation was simply a different expression of an ancient truth. The Book of Genesis puts it another way:

“So God created man in his own image; male and female He created them”

We are God’s creation. There is something of Himself in each and every one of us. When He looks into the little red face of my newborn granddaughter, what does He see? Putting aside dogma and doctrine as free will and predestination dance in their mysterious embrace, the future appears open and beckoning to her.

Will she be Pollyanna or Debbie Downer? Will she thrill to the social whirls of adolescence or shyly hesitate? Will she aspire to the heights of commerce, melt with happiness at the insistent cries of “Mom”, be warmed in the embrace of husband and good friends?  Will she walk into the light or fall into depths of darkness?

As a grandfather looking down, I do not know. I can only hope, help where I can and remember to lift her up in prayer. Does God know the answer to these questions? Or is He left, like us, with only hope? Again, free will and predestination dance in that mysterious embrace.

But both I and God know that this innocent little girl is a sinner in need of grace. And that recalls another little red faced newborn twenty centuries ago. Where my granddaughter’s birth was attended by trained professionals and cossetted in a warm and sanitary room, that long ago newborn had none of those things.

While I hope for all that is good for my newborn granddaughter, the days of that little boy’s life were set upon a different course. Nearly 800 years before that little baby was born, his life’s path was foretold:

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him

He was despised and rejected by men,

A man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces

He was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

He took up our pain

And bore our suffering

He was pierced for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities.”

Looking down at that little boy, two thousand years ago lying in a manger, could I have distinguished his face from that of my granddaughter? Some people say that babies all look different. I have my doubts, unvoiced around proud parents and grandmothers.

So the arc of my innocent newborn granddaughter’s life is yet to be. She might be a CEO or chambermaid, peace maker or peace breaker, matriarch or witch. But just like me, her life will be marked by sin, by commission and omission of that which hurt both ourselves and others.

Both she and I will someday come before an impartial judge, a judge who will render perfect justice to us. Because it is perfect justice, both she and I will be condemned for our failures, for our sinful lives. To make it worse, more poignant, we will both recognize the justice of our judgment.

But that newborn baby from the long ago manger will also be standing beside that throne of judgment, now a man, the Son of God in all His glory, a man “with eyes like a flame of fire, feet like burnished bronze and a voice like the roar of many waters”. As my granddaughter is before the great white throne of judgment, God, the judge, will look over at his Son in question.

It is my hope and prayer that on that day, Jesus will look at her with an infinite love in his fiery eyes and say, “She is mine. I have paid her debts.” He will reach out his hand and lead her away from the judgment seat and back to the garden with the words – “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will make you ruler over much. Enter now into the joy of your Lord.”

And the reason for the season is that on that day, I will meet my granddaughter once more.  I will again gaze into her eyes of my granddaughter and we shall never be parted.

3 Responses to “The Reason for the Season”

  1. Nancy Kilpatrick says:

    Thanks Bill, for these musings. I neeeded this today!Wishing you, Diane and all your family a Merry Christmas and a blessed and happy New Year!

  2. Terry Todd says:

    This is my favorite of your musings that I have read so far. Congratulations on the births, the fourteen and the One that we all celebrate every winter. Let’s get coffee again soon.

  3. Geoff Singleton says:

    It’s always good to hear the true story at Christmas and thank you for this reminder. Congratulations to you and Diane on the birth of your latest granddaughter. Let us all hope for a better year in 2021 for all of us. I listened to Ladies of the Canyon by Joni Mitchell last month. Fabulous.

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