Dear Daniel, Caleb, Adam, Rebekah, and Sara: I'm not much in the mood to write a Christmas letter. My heart is sad and homesick. I miss my mother (that's your grandmother or as Sara says, "The one with the dog.") and I miss Louisiana. I was going to wait and write when I felt better, but then I noticed you guys were feeling the same way. Most nights when you boys sit out on the porch with me you talk about missing Louisiana, and on the day of the caroling party I found Sara all by herself in the fellowship hall with big tears in her eyes. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "I miss Grandma." Actually, it's good that you're going through these things now. Living in a fallen world, you have before you not just many more Christmases but many more deaths and many more homes to leave. Perhaps this letter will help you deal with these things.
I hope one thing that I have made clear to you over the years, besides the fact that Dad doesn't lose in Nerf gun wars or wrestling, is that we should always see our lives in terms of the Bible. Don't just go to the Bible for a Bible verse here or there. Go to whole stories, chapters, Books and see what those have to say about where you are or what you're feeling. Particularly go to the life of Jesus. Always remember that it's Him for you. What happens to Him is for your sake, in your place, not a mere example.
The move was something else, huh? We were on pins and needles for weeks as I tried to decide whether to take the Call. You went up and down with me. Caleb, you wanted to go, and when I would talk as if I was going to take it, you would say, "Ah you said the same thing about the Oklahoma Call, and you didn't take that one." Daniel you didn't want to go. I'm not sure why. It might be that you couldn't bear the thought of moving away from your beloved New Orleans Saints football team. I would think with how their season turned out you'd be glad we did move. But then you've always been a more loyal fan than I.
When I did finally decide to take the Call what a rush of adrenalin and activity there was. There were literally hundreds of details to take care of. Of course, with Jesus there never was any indecision. From before there was even a world, the Father had decided to send His Son. You talk about details. It wasn't simply a matter of God the Son leaving heaven and coming to earth. From Adam and Eve on, God had promised that the Savior would be born of a woman from a particular bloodline. You can trace this in the Old Testament. Abel is killed, Seth takes over. It looks like the line will die with Abraham; then Isaac comes along. From Isaac it goes to Jacob despite Esau. From Jacob it goes to Judah despite Judah's sins. Several times it looked like the blood-line of the Seed of the Woman would be polluted, lost, or die out, but always God intervened so that the flesh and blood Mary bore was the Promised Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God made it look easy. I say this both of our move to Texas and the Son's move to earth. I don't think it is possible that our move could have been any easier. Our house sold right away. The packing though long went smoothly. We threw a bunch of stuff out. You guys tended to agonize over that. I'll never know what good teenage mutant Ninja turtles without arms or legs are but they were important to you, Adam. And it amazed me that seemingly useless parts and pieces from toy sets long forgotten were now indispensable in this or that game of Rebekah's and Sara's.
There surely is a sense of loss in moving, isn't there? We still talk about the canals. We call the earthen berm in the subdivision a levee though it borders no water. We miss the green of Louisiana. We miss the sound of the pumps coming on when it rained; we miss rain. And we miss the people of Louisiana. We miss Miss Kathie and the other Miss Kathy. We miss Mr. Mike and Mr. Dan. Miss Rene and Miss Jamie and a dozen other Mr.'s and Misses. We miss all that we knew as home. We still will begin sentences, "Back home..."
But our leaving of that home is nothing compared to Jesus' leaving of His home in heaven. You want to talk about loss! We make Louisiana out better than it really was, as if it was a heaven on earth. Well, Jesus' home was the heaven of heavens. We left sinners. Jesus left angels to be with sinners. We left an area plagued by crime and surrounded by swamps for one of the best places to live in America. Jesus left the heavenly mansions for an earth plagued by sin, death and the devil. Jesus left angels who served Him night and day to come to people who would not receive Him. We left people who loved us dearly and did many things for us to come to people who received us eagerly and couldn't wait to do many things for us. We moved about 500 miles; Jesus moved from eternity to time, from the heights of heaven to the depths of earth.
Do you remember when the moving truck pulled away? There were all our possessions minus a few headless Ninja turtles in one eighteen wheeler. Did it seem possible that all we owned could be contained in that one truck? Do you remember how the movers packed it in there from floor to ceiling? Do you remember how they would turns sofas and tables and desks all sorts of weird angles to make them fit? Didn't it seem miraculous when the movers opened the doors in Texas, and there were all our possessions?
This is an inadequate illustration of what took place when Jesus moved to earth. The eternal Word took on flesh and blood and dwelled among us, says St. John. "All the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ," says St. Paul. I've always told you that you can't make God too big. Adam when you were small you use to delight in talking about how God could do this or do that. That's right; our God is so great and mighty there's nothing He can't do as a children's song says. He is so big says the Bible that the universe itself cannot contain Him.
Take all the grandness of God, all the power, might, holiness, and wisdom, and put it all in the womb of a Virgin named Mary. I'm sure Daniel and Caleb can remember when Mom was pregnant for one of the girls. You use to place your hand or head on her big belly. Did it seem possible that an entire baby was in there? (Note to Rebekah and Sara: according to your Mom it actually felt like not only the baby was in there but the whole nursery.)
Well, all of God was in Mary's belly, and not only in her belly but in our flesh and blood, in our DNA and chromosomes. This wasn't any pretend or dress up game. When Mary held her baby she was holding God. When Mary fed her Baby she was feeding God. When Mary burped, changed, and kissed her Baby she was burping, changing and kissing God. God is that much in our flesh and blood. That's important. I don't always know what you're feeling, or how things look to you, but Jesus does. He's been where you are. He's been through what you'll go through. You can say to me, "You don't understand," and be right. You can never say that to Jesus.
Not only has Jesus been where you are. He has been where you are bearing your sins. Jesus came into this world through the womb that He might redeem sinners from there on up. He was the perfect 6 year old for Sara, the perfect 8 year old for Rebekah, the perfect 10 year old for Adam, the perfect 12 and 13 year old for Caleb and Daniel. Don't let that work of Jesus go to waste. Don't try to bear your own sin and guilt. Don't let Satan tell you, you've got to make up for your sins. Jesus came to spare you that. Don't you spare Him your sin and guilt; give them all to Him.
There are a lot of things in life that are real hard. You're going to lose people either by moving away or death all your life. I wish it were not so, but it is. I can't spare you these pains, neither will Jesus. He didn't spare His own the Mother the pain of losing Joseph, her husband, nor did He spare her the pain of moving away from Nazareth. He could've, but didn't. Jesus spares no one from the valley of shadows and death, but He does bring us through it.
Right now I'm reading letters Luther wrote to people. In the last letter he wrote to his wife before dying, he tells her not worry about him. "There is Someone better to worry about me than you and all the angels: He lies in the manger and [nurses on His mother]." Luther always directs us to God in Christ on earth: in the manger, in His mother's lap, in the waters of Baptism, in Communion. Luther rarely directs our eyes or thoughts to God high in the heavens. He almost always points us here on earth to find God in our flesh and blood. And notice, Luther speaks of Jesus in the present tense down here with us. He "lies" in the manger and "nurses" on His mother.
I would do this for you too kiddos. I can't spare you the deaths, the movings, and the changes you must go through here on earth. I can't spare you the turmoil, pain, and grief that goes with them. I can only share with you the Jesus who will not only go with you but indeed goes ahead of you. My children, you do not have a God who is so heavenly minded that He is no earthly good. You do not have a God who is far away from you in heaven behind locked gates and ranks of angels. You have a God who not only has walked a mile in your shoes, but has walked all the way to hell and back out in them. When you lose loved ones, remember Jesus did too. When you have to move remember Jesus did too. When growing up brings on too many changes, remember Jesus went through them all before you and FOR you..
Jesus did all this not so you would never have to move on earth but so He could move you from earth to heaven. Jesus clothed Himself forever with your flesh and blood, not so death would never take anyone you love, but so that death would never take you permanently. Jesus didn't bear the pains of sin and death to preserve you from change and decay, but so that the One who never changes would always stay with you.
My dear ones, you are going to have Christmases at emergency rooms, hospital rooms, funeral homes, and strange homes. But you will never have a Christmas without Jesus. He will always be there through His Church and Ministry to cover you with your Baptism, feed you with His Body and Blood, and forgive you with His Word. These won't stop death, moving, or change from happening, but they most certainly will bring you into the heavenly mansions. There you will find the life, the home, and the peace that the best Christmas ever on earth can only dimly reflect.
Yes, moving was a trauma for us, losing Grandma was hard, and all of these changes are difficult. But we still laugh and love and rejoice in all of this, don't we? We laugh over all of you kids having the 24 hour flu the day we moved. We laugh over how Grandma use to wrestle with us. We laugh over how we can't say we "go to Texas" for vacation anymore because we live in Texas. We can have so much fun in the midst of death, moving, and changes because our God isn't far away from us at all. He is right here with us in the manger, in our flesh, leading us ever homeward to heaven where we will know the laughter and love of our family with all the family of God. Dear ones, our best Christmases aren't behind us. They are yet ahead of us safe and secure with Jesus.
All my love,