While in graduate school some twelve years ago, two of our children, Walker and Kate, arrived at our house with their newly acquired prized possessions – two puppies. Since the kids were in residences that didn’t allow pets, they asked if we could temporarily house their new friends. Mojo and Hesse were two small bundles of fur from the same litter, a Newfoundland and Collie mixture. They were cute and we couldn’t say no. Somehow the temporary housing evolved into a six year pet-sitting adventure. Finally, the kids moved into housing that allowed pets. We said our goodbyes, but we always looked forward to our hellos when the kids came to visit us with the dogs. This fall old age and related health issues caught up to Mojo and Hesse. In November we said our last goodbye to Hesse and mourned his absence from our son’s life. Last week we received the word of Mojo’s death from our daughter, Kate. Even with pets, death is never easy.
Recently, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards, died following a six-year battle of cancer. From the time since the terminal diagnosis, Elizabeth engaged in advocacy for the poor, for helping cancer victims and a host of other causes. She was a remarakble lady. As I watched the Good Morning America show this morning I managed to capture a segment with an interior decorator who was trying to teach us how to keep decorating after the holidays so that we won’t go into some visual funk. One of his comments included how he had worked designing the kitchen of Elizabeth Edwards. In her kitchen he had spotted a wall hanging that said, “A crack in everything is how the light gets through.” Actually, the correct quotation comes from a song by Leonard Cohen called “Anthem.” The lyrics say – Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets through.”
During this Christmas season there are many people who emotionally struggle. For them “Peace on Earth” feels far away. Some churches even offer “Blue Christmas” worship services, helping people to make it through a holiday that seems less than festive. I would imagine that people who find themselves suffering through Christmas feel that somehow they are outside of the Christmas spirit. For me, however, these are the people for whom Christmas is intended.
When Mary discovered she was going to be a mother, she was so anxious that she traveled to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child. Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, became parents to a son, John, who eventually became known as John the Baptizer. In speaking about the impending birth of his son, Zechariah said, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
Today, I find myself sitting in the darkness. A good friend of mine, Ken Bracken, died last week of pancreatic cancer. He was pastoring the Christ United Methodist Church in Burton, Michigan. Ken was a second career pastor who entered the ministry out of the Central United Methodist Church in Waterford, Michigan, a church that I once pastored. I will miss Ken and his spirit. Like Elizabeth Edwards, he also battled cancer for several years. With his absence I am living with a crack in my life. But knowing Ken and the wonderful way he often butchered English grammar, I can hear him saying, “You know, man, you just gotta look for the light. It’s there. You know what I’m saying?”
Yeah, Kenny, I know what you’re saying, but sometimes the darkness feels so strong. So I’ll wait. I’ll look for the light. I’ll look for a star. I’ll sing “Silent Night” with a sense of anticipation that God’s grace will be born once again in our lives.