Psalm 73:24 – Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Hebrews 13:2 – Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (KJV)
December 1992 had been busy from early in the month. My dad had been hospitalized for a short time, several friends had undergone serious cancer surgeries, there had been the usual school and dance performances to sew for and attend, and there'd been an upheaval at work.
My parents lived in a care-home twelve hundred miles away. My mum was suffering with dementia, meaning that she didn't know her address, the date, or the year. Yet she knew us, knew how to play the hymns for the church service, knew her mind wasn't working right. I had started every morning by phoning her.
When I called that Christmas morning, there was a hesitation, and then I was told that she had just passed away. Their time zone being ahead of ours, in God's graciousness, I was given an hour to process the news before gently waking the rest of the family and breaking the news to them.
We had many decisions to make. We had a houseguest known only to our daughter, both of them home from university, and we didn't want to make our guest feel uncomfortable about being there. Our Goddaughter was to be baptized in two days. We also realized it was important to respect our feelings and to reflect on what mum's passing on Christmas Day would mean to us in the future.
We could choose to let her death make all subsequent Christmases sad, or we could accept it as a "new birth" for her, focusing on the life she'd lived, rather than on her death.
Mum had loved Christmas. She loved playing the organ at church, singing in the choir, and playing the piano at get-togethers. And she loved giving to people all year 'round. It was she who had taught me to see the positive in things. She, who had lived by her faith, now was given into eternal life on the most beautiful, peaceful day of the year. We also knew she wouldn't have wanted us to miss the baptism. And right afterwards, I was able to catch a flight to her home.
The presence of a houseguest and the prospect of the baptism were special gifts of God's love that enabled us to see a bit beyond our grief, to get a glimpse of our "Christmases past", and to lead us to have more meaningful Christmases in the future.
Perhaps we were "entertaining angels".
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your son's birth, and for all the beauty and blessings it bestows upon us. May we take the meaning, the sentiment, the carols, the peace and the love of Christmas and share these gifts throughout the year. In your name we pray. Amen.