December 30, 2009 in Editorial
/ — Nebraska restrains the bitterest winds until the temperature drops far enough down to make their partnership especially harsh. Then, as if it were some odd, twisted Christmas gift, Nebraska releases the two in a welcome to its grayish winter.
Like awkward penguins, we shuffled across the iced parking lot toward the doors that swung open to our dying mother. For days my sister – and then the two of us – had played Yhatzee by her bedside. Interspersed with questions for the Hospice nurse, the staff of the home and memory trips between the two of us, we had drawn near to Christmas with the realization this was our last gift to Mom: our presence.
Our brother came, too. Finally, after a week of waiting, we took a brief break for lunch. Of course, she died while we were out eating: her last gift to us.
Here in the Bay Area of Northern California, it is hard to sing songs about the weather being frightful and the snow being so delightful. The wind is about the same and the temperature does get chilly . . . but not too much.
This is the first Christmas without my parents. Dad died back in July of 1996 and mom joined him in December of last year.
With Passover drawing near, Jesus made arrangements to secure a room to partake with his disciples. Passover was a meal shared with family; yet in some manner Jesus took each of his disciples away from their immediate families in order to eat this meal with them.
In the background another conversation informs this one:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-50 NIV)
The apostle Paul, revolutionized by the risen Lord, is incredulous that the church at Corinth does not take in either of the above incidents as their own. Gathering for the supper of our Savior, they come and maintain their economic and ethnic distinctions. Those with rich tastes sit together lest the poor partake in the ancient Sunday pot-luck dinner. In the midst of such division, the apostle warns: “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
It’s as if Paul can’t believe he has to tell them that they are part of a new family: made brothers and sisters in the risen Christ. How can such division continue in this family meal? If it does, Paul warns: judgment.
Though these verses may seem strange to you as a Christmas message – to me they make perfect sense. I am orphaned in this world through the death of both parents. But there is another sense – and a more real sense – in which my father and mother are made my brother and sister in the redeeming work of Jesus.
The same Spirit that adopted them into the heart of God and put on their souls the words of ‘Abba, Father’ is the One that has done so for me. For all of eternity my father and mother have become my brother and sister as we worship the Lamb who blazes brilliance throughout all creation.
Jesus certainly did not make this earthborn family of no value! Honor your father and mother was but one of the commandments of God he perfectly kept. But Jesus went about creating a community that was based on something eternal: himself.
That child in the feeding trough in the city of David came to make sure I was not orphaned in eternity.
So, Dad and Mom – you’re having the merriest of Christmases as you behold Him with unveiled faces.
See you in His time.
Scott Downing is Senior Pastor of San Ramon Presbyterian Church in California and maintains a blog at scottdowning.wordpress.com.