Monday, December 13, 2010

There is a Redeemer...

What a wild week: last Monday I awoke to the news of a friend's death. On Tuesday I checked into the hospital and on Wednesday we welcomed a healthy, beautiful, big (for me) baby boy into the world. We spent the rest of the week acclimating and falling in love with him. On Saturday morning, my mom received word that her ailing father had been taken to the hospital and was being removed from his oxygen, which meant it was only a matter of time before he died. He hung on until early this morning.

Later this morning, HH left me at home with our little guy (we're not supposed to be out in public yet for the sake of both of our health) to attend our friend's memorial service. I wish I could have been there -- it sounds like it was a beautiful service celebrating Christ's beauty as reflected through one of his people. Of course, I would have cried through the whole thing -- I cried through it anyway from home as I sat and held our son and grieved with a woman who had to say goodbye to her own son way too soon.

Death, new life, death. This is the second December in a row that I find myself contemplating death at Christmas.

The poem below speaks to what the Incarnation represents: God himself entering our messy world and beginning the messy and painful process of redeeming all that is broken and painful. As long as we remain here on earth, our griefs will remain; but our grief is sanctified, and we can rest in knowing that the day is coming when all of our tears will be wiped away.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!

The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!

Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.

We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers
May be heaven’s distant lamps.

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.

She is not dead,–the child of our affection,–
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ himself doth rule.

In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.

Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.

Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child;

But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
Shall we behold her face.

And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest,–

We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.

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