(In The Life Of The Church)
This is my last newsletter entry for the year (see below). As a kid I remember watching VH1 on New Year’s Eve. They always used the evening’s programming to chronicle what had happened that year. I took a kind of comfort in that. Being reminded and remembering the world, as I had experienced it, always felt cathartic and necessary for me to move forward. Remembering is an important discipline in Christian faith, and the year’s end seems to be the moment when culture gives us the tools and the motivation to do just that.
2016 will forever be the year my father died. I knew for the eleven years my dad had cancer, and really every day before that, that someday he would die. Still, the magnitude of his death has been a force that I haven’t figured out how to absorb. Two words seem to characterize what I felt and continue to feel: Hollow and ache. I can’t offer you much commentary on the first, other than something seems to be missing. My sister, on Christ the King Sunday, talked about how part of her conception of God died with my dad. I think that’s true for me and also part of the reason for my hollowness. Something is now gone.
The ache I know a little better. I expect and understand its function in life. It’s not a pain. It doesn’t hurt acutely. I go on with life. I make plans. I celebrate the gifts God continues to give us. I laugh with my children. I get excited about movies. I appreciate moments of friendship. But all of that now is undergirded by something constant. It’s not like a thorn that needs to be removed from your foot or a pebble from your shoe. It is a reality that I drift into, and when I do, time stops, I sit down, recall moments from when I said goodbye and breathe deeply. I almost utter something like, “yes, that really happened.”
In the confusion of death, many memories from the last 36 hours I was with my dad are jumbled together. Some of them that I recall hurt, others make me laugh, but all of them are good because they are real and true. I’ve spent the almost five months since his death pulling them apart and chronicling them both on paper and in my heart. I want to share one memory that has floated to the top for me.
It’s a memory that I remember with the help of a picture. I’d share the picture if it was mine to share, but it’s not. It belongs to my parents and to the trinitarian love that they danced in until the last moments of their togetherness. My brother, the last to gather with my family in the final moments, greeted my father, who by this point had not demonstrated meaningful consciousness in quite some time. My mom, who I reasoned had been waiting for my brother, then laid down on his hospice bed next to him in my sister’s living room. She began whispering things in his ear. I don’t know what was said, but I knew enough to take my picture.
I’ll tell you what I saw there. Nearly fifty years of marriage. I saw two people committed to a vision for life. Two people sharing in the work of the kingdom. I saw a mom and dad proud of their four children. I saw a grandfather and grandmother proud of their 15 grandchildren. I saw faithfulness that carried them through stress, fights, tight grocery budgets, and a whole hell of a lot of sacrifice for us kids. I saw my mom letting go of eleven years of driving to hospitals in three different cities, sitting patiently beside her husband during chemo and radiation appointments. I saw my mom juggling finances and working with insurance companies to make a way forward. I saw her endure disappointments of hopes unfulfilled and a season of blissful retirement cut short. I saw fidelity.
In my sister’s living room where my father died, there was another picture. It hung on the wall above the head of his bed. I used those last hours by my father’s side to notice that picture. It was often the object of my visual attention when I found myself splashing around in emotions that I was greeting for the first time. I’m still not sure what the picture is of. Having grown up in northern Wisconsin, it reminded me of a ginseng field.
Now I will tell you about something that has come to mean a great deal to me: Months later, when I was looking at my picture of love, I found myself in that whimsical picture hanging above my father’s head on the wall. I’m a faint reflection holding my phone to capture the image of my parents’ love. Strangely, perhaps providently, I’m centered above my parents in the middle of them as if there were room between them. It was by every measure an accident, and yet it is for me a kind of grace. I belong to them. I came from that love and now that love lives on in me.
This self-giving that my parents modeled was first given to them as Love just as it is now given to me as the same Love. So, as the culture’s calendar comes to a conclusion in the same moment when the church’s begins, I remember this: Christmas is and must be Easter’s equal companion. God came. His arrival is the most explicit of His moves in a redemptive story that began before the garden was rolled out. And it is to these eternal realities and this story, that my parents’ Love now rests.
Our beloved newsletter, cleverly named ITLOTC, will be taking a two week hiatus after today. So please, do not sit on the edge of your couch with a cup of warm coco in hand nervously refreshing your inbox every five minutes while you wait on Friday December 23 & 30. Because there will be no newsletter on those days. Instead we urge you true companion, take this time, which has been liberated from the demands of academic calendars, kids sporting events and other schedule killing regularities and enjoy your family, friends, and the season when we celebrate the arrival of our dear Savior.
Holiday Church Schedule
Saturday December 24th @ 5:00 PM, UBC will gather to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus with worship enacted through scripture reading and carol singing.
Sunday January 1st @ 11:00 AM, UBC will gather to share brunch and bring in the new year with liturgy.
At both of these gatherings, there will be no child care, but what we promise instead is a festive environment where children are welcome!
The Middle Ages Christmas Party
The Middle Ages, the group formerly known as Empty Nesters, which is the group formerly known as the Upside, is getting together for a Christmas party like it's 1999, check that, like it's 1979. This festive celebration commemorating the birth of our dear savior, will take place on December 17th @ 6:00 PM CST. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas Card Board
Have you ever had this thought? "Golly gee, I wish UBC had some kind of directory so I could help remember peoples names." Well I have good news for you. We are going to use one of our bulletin boards to display your Christmas cards. So bring one for ol' UBC and we'll put it for everyone to see.
Work is Worship
Greeters: Will & Richardsons
Coffee Makers: Toph & Kim
Mug Cleaners: Carney-Factor
Money Counter: Justin Pond
- Sunday Sermon: Matthew 1:18-25 "Christmas Stories Part 4: Bar Talk"
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Joy Wineman: firstname.lastname@example.org
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UBC Finance Team
Do you have a question about UBC’s financial affairs? Please feel free to contact any of your finance team members.
Josh McCormick: Josh.McCormick@dwyergroup.com
Hannah Kuhl: HannahKuhl@hotmail.com
Justin Pond: email@example.com
Anna Tilson: Anna_Tilson@jrbt.com
Doug McNamee: firstname.lastname@example.org