A Christmas Memory
In London during World War II, in the aftermath of a German bombing raid on Christmas Eve, a congregation gathered at their church only to discover it had been destroyed. They cleared away enough of the rubble to find a few pews and the altar and began to celebrate the birth of Jesus. During the worship service, someone picked up a broken board and, using a piece of charred wood, wrote on it these words: “Blasted but still blessed!”
When I first heard that true story on the BBC over four decades ago, I didn’t give it much thought. But for the past twenty-nine years, I’ve found myself pondering it every Christmas Eve, for my father died suddenly and unexpectedly on Christmas Eve in 1988 when an aneurism in his aorta burst. As I said the prayers at the altar during the Midnight Mass a few hours later, I thought about my mother and my sisters, about Becky and our children, about our extended families, and about the impact my father’s death would have on all of us – we had been blasted during the season of blessings!
Standing before the altar in that little country church, I thought nostalgically about my previous forty-five Christmases and the joyful times our family had shared with my father around the tree; a tear trickled down my face when I acknowledged to myself the hard reality that what had been would never be again . . . death’s cold blast had seen to that!
Moments later my eyes settled on the Cross directly before me, standing quietly and majestically amidst a choir of poinsettias. As I pondered that Cross, I realized my father had not been blasted, he had been blessed! In the twinkling of an eye he had been released from the reality of this world; every mystery had been revealed; and his ultimate hope had been realized. For in the presence of Jesus, he was now experiencing the most wonderful Christmas ever!
“Blasted but still blessed!” Hold on to that thought, folks – keep it in your hearts and ponder it throughout the year - for that’s the note of hope Christmas brings. The essence of the Christmas story is that out of the reality of life’s rubble something emerged – not mysteriously, but by God’s grace. That something was Someone – Jesus. Jesus met the hopes and fears of all the years in Bethlehem two thousand years ago . . . and He still does! And for that we can say, “Thanks be to God!” Amen.